An athlete excelling in two disparate disciplines is always confounding - an evocation of childhood, perhaps, when we all knew one annoying kid who was good at everything.

It's something that should be impossible in the specialised world of elite sport. But in Hamish Bond and Shohei Ohtani, last week we saw that playground multi-tasking taken to the top level.

One is a Kiwi sporting great, the other, the best athlete you've never heard of. So let's employ a highly-subjective and completely made-up formula to determine whose recent achievements are more impressive.

The background

With Eric Murray, Bond formed one of the most dominant teams in any sport before taking a break from rowing after the Rio Olympics to go for a bike ride. Ohtani was known outside Japan only to baseball obsessives until heading to the United States this year to play for the Los Angeles Angels. So what's the big deal? Ohtani pitches and hits. Which, as you'll discover, is a big deal.


Winner: Bond

Who's more historic?

One player pitching and hitting is probably underwhelming to the average cricket-loving Kiwi. But all-rounders don't exist in baseball, not in the past century. The two skills are so challenging and distinctive, a professional athlete cannot devote time to - let alone thrive at - both.

Except Ohtani, who, in his first six games Stateside, changed the paradigm. The 23-year-old started twice as a pitcher, winning twice while flirting with a perfect game, and hit three straight home runs in the four he played as designated hitter. The last player to start a game at pitcher in the same season in which he hit three consecutive homers? One Babe Ruth, in 1930.

Bond's history is ahead of him. Right now he's just another bum with a bronze. Should he continue his rapid rise in the time trial and reach the podium at Tokyo in two years, he would become the first Kiwi to win an Olympic medal in different sports. The international list is 74-strong; the last whose prizes both came at the Summer Games was Brit Rebecca Romero, who achieved the feat in ... rowing and cycling.

Winner: Ohtani

What's cooler?

Chicks dig the long ball, and Ohtani has already shown abundant abilities to mash home runs. But chicks also dig scars, and Bond could fall off his bike at any time. As for pitching and rowing, there's little cool about either.

Winner: Tie

Degree of difficulty

At first glance, switching between different sports appears trickier than two separate parts of baseball. But it's not. Bond's accomplishments in such a short time are laudable but the time trial is an endurance event in which athletes produce power through their legs. The abilities brought over from rowing made Bond the perfect cyclist.

There's nothing about hitting a baseball hard that is conducive to throwing a baseball well. It's twin duels masquerading as a team sport. If we insist on an ill-suited cricket comparison, consider: a baseball team will face an average of about 150 pitches per game and turn about nine into base hits. Seems a bit more difficult than slogging a medium-pacer to cow corner.

Winner: Ohtani


This one feels like it should be clear-cut. Ohtani has behind him Japan and the US; combined population, 450 million. Until you remember one thing: the 2013 ANZ beach cricket ad. Sure, Bond didn't get a line - or a bowl, with his turn at the crease taken by Shane Bond, much to Eric Murray's chagrin, prompting the famous "not that Bondy" line that will go down in the annals of New Zealand TV history. But he does display some serious acting chops.

Winner: Bond


Are Kiwi kids now going to grow up wanting to row and ride a bike really fast? Maybe the weird ones. Will young Americans and Japanese now believe they don't have to choose between pitching and hitting? Absolutely. Ohtani has reawakened something long dormant in baseball.

Winner: Ohtani

Inarguable conclusion: Both athletes have expanded the realm of what's possible in modern sport and, in a way, they're both winners. But in another, more accurate way, Ohtani is the winner. We'll revisit this when Bond takes up fencing or something.