Gold and silver in Tokyo but not even on the startline in Paris?
The New Zealand rowing eights' amazing Olympic feats may be years away from being repeated.
The Kiwi men's and women's eights claimed shock gold and silver medals at the Tokyo Olympics but it's now almost certain they won't be on the start line in Paris in 2024.
That's the blunt assessment of Rowing NZ general manager of performance Judith Hamilton, who has all but ruled out an eight until the following Olympic Games, in Los Angeles.
"I'd never say never that we wouldn't have an eight but certainly the development plan would be looking at LA 2028," Hamilton told the Herald.
At last year's Tokyo Games, Hamish Bond famously returned to rowing to help an unheralded men's eight stun the sport by winning at Sea Forest Waterway.
It was only New Zealand's second-ever triumph in the marquee event, replicating the success of the 1972 men's eight at Munich - and only the fourth-ever medal in the big boat for this country, following the bronze to the men in 1976 at Montreal, and the silver medal row from the women's eight in Tokyo, just minutes before the men's 2021 gold.
But Bond then retired and the eights crew, also featuring Michael Brake, Shaun Kirkham, Tom Mackintosh, Matt Macdonald, Tom Murray, Dan Williamson, Phillip Wilson and coxswain Sam Bosworth, went their separate ways.
Some went on to other boats - notably Mackintosh and Macdonald, who are already drawing comparisons to Bond and his former partner Eric Murray in the men's pair, after winning gold on their international debut at the World Cup in Poznan, Poland last weekend.
It was a similar story for the women's eight in Tokyo of Kelsey Bevan, Emma Dyke, Jackie Gowler, Kerri Williams (nee Gowler), Ella Greenslade, Grace Prendergast, Beth Ross, Lucy Spoors and cox Caleb Shepherd.
Williams and Prendergast, who won gold together in Tokyo in the women's pair as well as with their eight, will reunite in that sweep boat at the Henley Royal Regatta on the Thames next week, and then compete at the World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland in July.
The culmination of this year's international programme will be September's World Championships in the Czech Republic - but Hamilton says they have no plans to enter any eights there either.
It's partly to do with circumstances due to Covid-19 disruptions, but it's also about the length of time it takes to build crews for the big boats.
"I mean the eights that we saw in Tokyo have been part of a development programme since post-London (2012 Olympics) so that's how long it takes to develop," Hamilton said.
"And where we've been hindered with the pandemic is our age group teams haven't had international competition for two years so hence why we've got big teams this year and [are] developing athletes for the future."
That long term approach is why the eights might not be glimpsed again at Olympic level until 2028.
"It's still early days, we're certainly looking to build the capability, certainly some of our young athletes coming through - we've got a big junior and under-23 team but certainly some of our under-23s, who will be competing later on in Europe, could be contenders for us to start building some more depth," Hamilton said.
And whether the likes of Mackintosh/Macdonald and Prendergast/Williams will be seen again in the eights would be on a "case by case basis", she said.
"There has [sic] been examples where athletes have doubled up but it is quite tough during an Olympic event to double up. Kerry and Grace obviously in Tokyo won the gold in the women's pair and silver in the women's eight, but it is a tough schedule so ideally athletes would focus on one event."