Inspiration close at hand for Murray

Rio will be Marlborough rower Tom Murray's first Olympic experience and he can't wait to get started.
SCOTT HAMMOND

Rio will be Marlborough rower Tom Murray's first Olympic experience and he can't wait to get started.

Marlborough oarsman Tom Murray won't have to look far for motivation when he sits at the Rio start line.

The 22 year-old, bowman in the New Zealand eight, says he is inspired to do his best, not by historical or public expectations, but by his fellow crew members.

"It is something we have all thought about, especially during the particularly hard weeks recently," said the affable Blenheim Rowing Club athlete.

The New Zealand rowing eight, with Blenheim's Tom Murray at left. The other crew members are Shaun Kirkham, Michael ...
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The New Zealand rowing eight, with Blenheim's Tom Murray at left. The other crew members are Shaun Kirkham, Michael Brake, Isaac Grainger, Joe Wright, Alex Kennedy, Brook Robertson, Stephen Jones and, in front, coxswain Caleb Shepherd.

"I haven't been able to nail one thing that gets me up every morning, aside from the fact that if I don't I would have a punishment waiting from the crew, and it's a nasty one.

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"It's probably the team that I am rowing with that I draw most of my motivation from. These guys can do some pretty special things and seeing them do it every day makes me want to do it too, and outdo them.

"That tends to go in a circle and we are always trying to outdo each other. Trying to be the best we can be is probably what gets us up."

That's not to say Murray and the other big boat crewmen pay no heed to what has gone before. New Zealand has won two Olympic medals in the men's eight, a bronze in 1976 and that never-to-be forgotten gold in 1972.

He said the current crew were well aware of their predecessors' performances and had discussed them prior to their Olympic qualifying campaign last year. "We certainly talked about [the 1972 crew] and drew some inspiration from them, and I'm sure we will do so again leading up to our racing in Rio.

"At the same time, we are a different crew. We are our crew and we want to keep it that way. We don't want to get lost in everything else. It is a really exciting trip in this eight."

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Rio will be the first occasion since 1984 that a Kiwi crew has contested the Games blue riband event. The pressure to justify their selection would weigh heavily on some crews, but not this one, says Murray.

 "I don't think there is anything, or anybody, that puts as much pressure on us as we do ourselves.

"Because we know what we are capable of and, on the day, if we put down our best work then we are going to come away with some real results.

"I don't feel any added pressure from history or selection, any pressure I put on myself is for me to perform at my best – like we all do."

The crew arrived in Rio last week after a solid training block at their Swiss base. Murray said the build-up had been tough, as expected.

"The last couple of weeks we have slogged it out in training, but we knew it was coming.

"You don't want to be feeling fresh a couple of weeks out, you still want to be tired so you can freshen up closer to the event. It's all about timing and the challenge of trying to get nine guys on the same page, ready to fire, on the one day.

"That's a challenge that we face regularly and something we are pretty good at. I have full confidence that our crew will be on our game.

"We are a very disciplined crew, which we have worked on over the years, and it's something we are very proud of."

While Murray admits the opportunity to hang some precious metal around his neck is "the big one" when it comes to personal objectives, he has a more performance-based goal in mind for his debut appearance at the biggest sporting show on earth.

"On the day, in a final, anything can happen. As long as I come out of there having rowed the best race that I could have, and with the crew having done the same, then that will tick all the boxes."

Murray and the New Zealand eight begin their campaign in the heats at 1.50am on Tuesday, August 9. 

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