Three New Zealand rowers brought two Olympic titles to their South Pacific nation within the space of 40 minutes today on a golden day for the Kiwis.
Victory to Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, disparate characters with a single aim, in the men’s pair was followed by a win to Mahe Drysdale in the men’s single sculls, one of the toughest races in the Olympic regatta.
It was the best hour for a New Zealand Olympic team since Peter Snell and Murray Halberg won gold medals on the track in the space of 60 minutes at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Murray, an extrovert with the facial hair of a 1970s rock star, and the softly spoken Bond, have been unbeaten for three years and set a world best in the semi-finals.
France tried to upset their rhythm by setting off fast but the New Zealanders remained unperturbed, pulling away to win by two lengths without appearing to exert themselves unduly.
Afterwards the pair were asked if they saw any resemblances between themselves and the national All Blacks rugby side, who won their first World Cup for 24 years in 2011 at the expense of the French.
“Obviously the All Blacks are the pinnacle of sport in New Zealand,” Bond replied. “The pressure was my biggest fear, not being able to deliver on what I knew I was capable of, it was a lot of effort and a lot of training.
“Somebody did the stats, it was like 17,000 strokes for every stroke in the final, which is quite ludicrous.”
The five-times world champion put all his troubles behind him today as clouds and light showers were succeeded by bright sunshine to hold off a spirited challenge by second-placed Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.
“I had a dream about 12 years ago that I wanted to be an Olympic champion and it’s been a tough road,” said Drysdale, who was born in Melbourne and spent his early life in England.
“It’s taken me three Olympics to get there but to me it’s like you can achieve your dreams if you go out there and work your butt off.”