Bond and Murray, Drysdale win gold

MARC HINTON IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2012
Bond and Murray
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Gold medalists from left: Eric Murray, Mahe Drysdale and Hamish Bond carry bronze medalist Juliette Haigh near Eton Dorney, London.
Bond and Murray
Iain McGregor/Fairfax NZ
New Zealand's Hamish Bond (left) and Eric Murray react after winning gold in the men's rowing pair at the London Olympics.

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New Zealand sport has another golden hour at the Olympics thanks to the magnificent achievements of single-sculler Mahe Drysdale and the pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in a magical 45 minutes at Dorney Lake.

New Zealand's perfect pair said they felt like the All Blacks ahead of the final, but they went out and delivered a performance even our rugby finest would have been proud of.

Then Drysdale completed the special double - New Zealand's third gold of the Games, taking them ahead of the Australians on the medal table - with an epic victory over Czech rival Ondrej Synek to put the final flourish on one of the great Kiwi sporting careers.

Drysdale had won five world titles over the last two Olympic cycles, but illness had crippled his chances in Beijing where he was heroic en route to a bronze medal finish.

But redemption was Drysdale's as he powered home over the last half of the race to leave Synek behind.

He rated the victory the "toughest" race of his career, and as he collapsed on the pontoon afterwards, with emotions and exhaustion washing over him, he took stock of what it meant.

"My career was incomplete without this. I can’t quite believe it," he said, struggling at times to hold it together as the reality of what he had achieved hit home.

"I had absolutely nothing in the last bit and I could see Synek coming at me. It was just a matter of holding on and I’m so glad I did."

"I can’t quite believe it. I have been working for this for 12 years ... now I’ve achieved it. All my family and friends were here and the crowd was amazing. It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life."

There was the best part of a boat-length in it at the end (nearly a second and a-half), and a spent Drysdale was able to celebrate an achievement that rounds off his CV in perfect fashion.

Murray and Bond, New Zealand's most dominant sportsmen of the modern era, scorched to a commanding victory in their final to complete their half of the golden hour double.

They have dominated their event for four long years - they have now won all 13 international regattas they have entered, comprising 36 races in total - and were never going to relinquish their stranglehold with the moutaintop in sight.

Sure enough they powered to an epic victory with a commanding row that left their rivals wallowing behind them in a separate race for the silver.

Following on from the gold medal feats of double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan on Thursday, rowing has now joined track and field as New Zealand's most successful Olympic sport with their haul of nine golds in total.

It is also a record-breaking Games for the Kiwi squad, with three golds and a bronze so far.

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As the fabulous Kiwi pair punched the air in celebration at the finish, their dominance of their event was complete.

They had decimated a quality field, putting their noses in front just after the 500m mark and rowing away to win by nearly five seconds, or the best part of three clear boat-lengths.

The French were ecstatic to hold off the British pair for the silver.

Bond and Murray's time of 6m 16.65s was also very, very good considering cross-wind conditions had forced a lane redraw.

But it was only fitting that they produce a dominant row to put the exclamation on a special four years in the pair boat.

"The nerves were terrible over the last few days," said Dunedin-born Bond afterwards.

"Watching the men's double yesterday 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, 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."

Murray said there was a sense of relief at the finish, but also another over-riding emotion.

"There was also just a massive sense of achievement. All the things we've done so far have exceeded our expectations for these four years, and just to top it off feels so good."

Added Bond: "It's been four years of hard work, we've achieved more than we ever expected to in the pair. No one can take away what we've achieved and we're just so pleased we could finish off."

The New Zealand women's double of Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer struggled with the pace in their final, but would have been satisfied enough with fifth, while the Kiwi quad scull of John Storey, Michael Arms, Matthew Trott and Robert Manson ended their regatta on a high note when they won the B final by hauling in the Russians over the last 500m.

- Fairfax Media

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