Bond, Murray risk losing their unbeaten record

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 09/08/2014
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
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AIMING HIGH: Hamish Bond, left, and Eric Murray have added the coxed pairs event to their schedule for this month's world championships.

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Hamish Bond and Eric Murray have their sights set on a rare golden double in Amsterdam this month.

But they're aware of risking losing their unbeaten record that has spanned almost six years when they contest the men's coxed pairs event, along with their usual straight pairs discipline, at the world rowing championships from August 24-31.

They will be joined in the boat by coxswain Caleb Shepherd, the cox of the Kiwi men's eight, in a radical move that could test the resolve of the current Olympic gold medallists.

Bond and Murray will have to row a minimum of five races over both disciplines in Amsterdam in pursuit of two gold medals and Murray said they and coach Noel Donaldson have discussed the risks the heavier programme could have on their main event.

"We wouldn't be racing it if we didn't think we were capable of winning both," Murray said.

"There are risks involved in racing both, but we are preparing ourselves for it so we will be able to handle the amount of racing and the intensity of doing it. We have been preparing and training to put the probabilities in our favour of not losing, so we try to eliminate any doubt from our minds."

Bond and Murray haven't been beaten at any level in Olympic, world championship and World Cup races as a straight pair since teaming up after the 2008 Olympics.

Murray said the move to row in two events could put their world record streak of 18 major titles in the straight pair in jeopardy, but were motivated by the challenge.

"There have been only a few people that have ever won both pairs at the same championships, so it's a challenge to try and achieve both.

Bond, Murray and Shepherd will be aiming to win their heats in each event to avoid rowing extra racing that would have them compete in a maximum of seven races.

Bond brought up the idea of also competing in the coxed pair last year as an added challenge for the duo who have rarely been pushed in the straight pair since chief rivals Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge quit their boat a season ahead of the 2012 Olympics, where they won gold in the Great Britain four.

The coxed pair is a slightly bigger and heavier boat, plus the addition of Shepherd at around 55kg, so the new event will be slower and tougher for the duo who began training for it when they headed overseas in June for the New Zealand team's European campaign of World Cup and world championship regattas.

"Prior to that, neither of us had ever rowed one before.

"We've got a good coxswain too in Caleb, as he's been in the driving seat of our successful men's eight programme, so he knows what to do and even being in a coxed pair himself is a learning curve."

Shepherd has guided the NZ men's under-23 eight to consecutive age-group world championship golds and impressive performances in two World Cup regattas this year.

Murray said some women will often contest pairs and eights events at world-class meets but it's rare for men to attempt two disciplines at one regatta.

It's understood that the last time a New Zealand men's coxed pair competed at a world champs was in 1994, when Rob Waddell and Ian Wright teamed up.

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However, Murray doesn't expect that they will regularly compete in the coxed pair, which is not an Olympic-class boat.

"I think this will be a one off."

- Waikato Times

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