12 Aug 2016

Olympics: Bond and Murray grab NZ's first gold

9:59 am on 12 August 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics - Rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are "ecstatic"at the commanding performance that won them New Zealand's first gold medal of the Games.

New Zealand's Hamish Bond (R) and New Zealand's Eric Murray celebrate at the end of the Men's Pair final rowing competition at the Lagoa stadium during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016.

Eric Murray, left, and Hamish Bond celebrate after winning gold in the men's pair rowing competition. Photo: AFP

Today's victory gives them back-to-back Olympic gold medals and is the pair's 69th consecutive win, having never been beaten in their eight years together.

And that record was never threatened in Rio.

Bond and Murray sat midfield over the first 500m of the 2000m race.

By the 1000m mark though they were a boat length ahead, and at the 1500m the rest of the field were simply battling it out for second with Bond and Murray two and a half lengths in front.

While the South African crew pegged back some of that lead over the final 500m to finish second, the New Zealanders won by over a boat length with Italy third.

New Zealand's Eric Murray (R) and New Zealand's Hamish Bond (R) celebrate with their gold medals on the podium of Men's Pair final rowing competition at the Lagoa stadium during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016.

Bond and Murray with their gold medals. Photo: AFP

"We've just made sure we've done the training, we've just turned up, prepared properly, and we just take things one step at a time," Murray told RNZ this morning.

"There's no secret - we're doing exactly what anyone else has done - they're training hard, we're training hard and we've just tried to find a way to do it slightly better than anyone else.

"Our combination, it's almost been magical, we've got into a rhythm and we know each other's idiosyncrasies which has made us work really well together."

Bond and Murray were "ecstatic" with the win, but admitted to having felt enormous pressure, particularly in what they described as "pretty rough conditions" at the Lagoa Stadium.

Murray said it was fair game that all the other crews were targetting New Zealand after the pair's phenomenal success.

"It's the nature of being undefeated, because we can't exceed expectations - only match them," Bond said.

The last few months of training had been hard and he had been feeling "sick and tired", he said.

"It wasn't a perfect race, but we really got going at the third 500 and it just went from there."

Both said they felt a great sense of relief to have withstood the pressure.

"We are far prouder of what we have done to get to this point than the race itself," Murray said.

South Africa's Shaun Keeling and South Africa's Lawrence Brittain, New Zealand's Eric Murray, New Zealand's Hamish Bond, Italy's Marco di Costanzo and Italy's Giovanni Abagnale celebrate with their medals on the podium in Rio.

The New Zealanders shared the podium with the silver-medal-winning South Africans and the Italians who took bronze. Photo: AFP

Bond and Murray hold the world record for the event, setting a time of 6:08.50 in the 2012 London Olympics, taking six seconds off the previous record.

"For London, it was trying to win an Olympic gold medal. This Olympic cycle was about trying to repeat that," said Murray.

"We never looked to defend our title, just to win every race.

"We've always had that target on our back, but we've tried to be a half-step in front of everyone."

Rowing New Zealand Simon Peterson chief executive agreed the champion rowers were under enormous pressure to win gold.

"To be under that sort of spotlight and to have everybody say they're a certain gold, weeks and months before the Olympics, just makes [their achievement] even more outstanding," he told Morning Report.

"To handle that pressure and deliver on the day is something wonderful that we should all celebrate."

Bond said they would probably take a bit of time to reflect after the medal win.

"The last 12 months have been draining in terms of training and drive."

The pair were "different people", Bond said of their eight-year partnership. "[Eric] basically thinks we can't lose, that we go out on the water and win. I tend to worry about what will go wrong."

- RNZ

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