New Zealand's golden Olympic moments: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in 2012
Ahead of the Rio Olympic Games, Stuff counts down New Zealand's top 25 golden Olympic moments. At No 22 is men's pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray at London in 2012.
So good. So dominant. So bloody ruthlessly efficient that it still brought on goosebumps for every Kiwi watching that overcast August Friday at the London Olympic rowing venue west of London.
That's Hamish Bond and Eric Murray for you. Unbeatable. Indefatigable. Yet utterly compelling to watch. As they were in London, on August 3 of 2012, when they served up the first half of New Zealand Olympic sport's latest 'Golden Hour' in their trademark ferocious fashion. The peerless pair. The perfect pair. Now, finally, the golden pair.
There were plenty of Kiwis on hand at Dorney Lake, London's seething purpose-built rowing facility, as well as hundreds and hundreds of thousands perched in front of their TV sets a world away late at night back in New Zealand taking in the most predictable, yet also most delectable, gold medal of these Games.
There was not an ounce of suspense or surprise about the imperious march to gold by New Zealand rowing's poster boys of perfection. But who cared? It was as exhilarating and exciting as any Kiwi triumph on the golden stage.
That's because it was six minutes and change of rowing efficiency at its brutal best. Like watching the All Blacks at their peak tear opponents apart with almost ridiculous ease, this was poetry in motion, even if it was two men in a boat rowing a race of their own from almost go to whoa.
A day earlier the double scull of Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen had surged to that thrilling, and kind of unexpected, gold on the same stretch of water, which had set the scene beautifully for Freaky Friday.
Could it be possible? Two golds within an hour, a la Peter Snell and Murray Halberg's epic double on the track in Rome in 1960. Bond and Murray seemed like the banker part of the double, though despite not having been beaten since they jumped into the pair together in 2009, even they were feeling a few pre-game anxieties.
"The nerves were terrible over the last few days," Bond reflected afterwards. "Watching the men's double [the day before] was sheer bloody willpower and determination. You watch the slo-mo on Joseph's face, and it almost made me cry. I just wish we could have pushed as hard as they did, but I'm pleased we didn't really have to.
"It was just a matter of finishing off the job. The most difficult thing was knowing we should win. Like the All Blacks [of 2011], they knew they should win, and we knew we should win. But doing it is another story. I'm just so pleased we managed to achieve what we're capable of."
They certainly did that, right from the very first time they dipped their oars in the water in this history-making regatta for New Zealand rowing that would serve up three gold medals and two bronzes.
Bond and Murray are an intriguing tandem, successful as much for their contrasting personalities as their common ability to make a rowing shell go very fast. But they share a belief in the psychological power of their dominance of their division. Over the Olympic cycle they had already forced Britain's premier pair to jump ship to the four, and they were well aware that their aura of invincibility carried with it a certain advantage.
So when they went out in their heat on the opening day of the regatta in pristine conditions tailor-made to row fast, and beat the world's best time for the pair by six seconds, well, really, you might as well have handed them the gold there and then.
"All the other crews don't know they can beat us because they haven't beaten us in the past, whereas we've beaten every crew we've come up against, so we can be confident in our abilities," Murray said in the leadup to the final, perfectly capturing the iron-grip they held on their rivals.
But this is sport. Upsets happen. David occasionally slays Goliath. Bond and Murray still had to go out that Friday and keep up their end of the bargain, even if the unknown was not how, but by how much.
They raced their final beautifully, capping their perfect four years − never beaten in a major regatta − in fitting fashion. It was close the first 500m, with the French pair of Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette jumping out to head the Kiwis by 0.5s at the first mark. But after that there was only ever one boat in it.
The Kiwis lightly tapped on their metaphorical accelerator at the 500m mark, and by the halfway point they had put a length on the Frenchmen. Murray was stealing the occasional glance across from lane six, and Bond was rigid, blinkered, in the zone, keeping pace with his beautiful, rhythmic sweep of the oar.
From there it was all over. By the 1500m the New Zealanders were three lengths clear and in a race of their own and, as they'd done for almost every race over the last four years, they eased to the line with matters in hand.
Except this time there was a difference. This time their joy was unrestrained. Murray pumped a clenched fist in the air. Bond raised both alarms aloft in what, for him, was pure celebration. They looked fresh enough to turn round and do it all again.
"There was just a massive sense of achievement," reflected Murray. "All the things we've done so far have exceeded our expectations, and just to top it off feels so good." Added Bond: "It's been four years of hard work, and we've achieved more than we ever expected to in the pair."
Remarkably, just 45 minutes later Mahe Drysdale, would come out and keep up his end of the golden bargain with a remarkable row of redemption in the single scull. But that is another story ...