Indomitable Murray and Bond complete golden defence
Hot favourites Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand did not disappoint at the Olympic rowing regatta on 11 August, claiming gold in the men's pairs and extending an unbeaten streak that dates back to 2009.
Bond and Murray, who took gold in the same event at the 2012 Games in London had broken away with a commanding lead by the race's midway point, only widening the distance between themselves and the rest of the pack as the race went on.
The second-place race was a far closer affair, with South Africa, Great Britain and Italy all looking to be contenders for the silver as the pack headed into the home stretch. A vocal South African crowd cheered wildly as their boat clinched second place. Italy took bronze.
The New Zealanders’ victory reaffirmed Murray and Bond's status as one the greatest rowing partnerships of all time. They have not lost a race in seven years of competing as a pair.
Clearly feeling the burden of expectation that had weighed on them going into Rio 2016, both rowers were delighted to have completed a successful defence of their title. “There's a lot of relief in there,” said Murray after their win.
“For London, it was trying to win an Olympic gold medal. This Olympic cycle was about trying to repeat that. We never looked to defend our title, just to win every race. To win another Olympic gold medal is an amazing achievement and we're just happy we had an opportunity to go out and do it. We've always had that target on our back, but we've tried to be a half-step in front of everyone.”
Bond meanwhile revealed that one of the key ingredients in his successful partnership with Murray is their contrasting personalities and mindsets.
"Eric and I are different people. He basically thinks we can't lose, that we go out on the water and win. I tend to worry about what will go wrong."
"If we put out a good race and we don't win we'll take it, we don't want to let the New Zealand rowing team down,” added Bond. “We still have to execute, but the hard work is done in the four years leading up to this. It's the nature of being undefeated that we can't exceed expectations – we can only match them. "
Looking ahead to the future, he said that neither rower would be rushing into any plans. “We will probably take a little bit of time to reflect. The last 12 months have been draining in terms of training and drive."
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Lawrence Brittain described himself as “pretty stoked” at winning silver. “That was a quality race for us. And now we're standing on the podium!”
Marco Di Costanza of Italy was no less thrilled to be clutching a bronze medal. “I'm very happy. This is my first Olympic Games. When I was small I dreamed this,” he beamed.