Two gold medals for NZ at rowing world champs
Two gold medals and two world's best times for New Zealand crews at the world rowing champs in Amsterdam this morning.
The NZ men's coxed pair of Hamish Bond, Eric Murray and coxswain Caleb Shepherd won gold in their first crack at the event, while the rookie women's four combination of Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kelsey Bevan and Kayla Pratt stormed to a stunning triumph in their final on a windy Bosbaan course.
Fierce tail winds helped produce six world's fastest times on the first of three days of A finals at the regatta. Bond, Murray and Shepherd won in a time of six minutes 33.26 seconds to destroy the previous fastest time in the event - set 20 years ago - by more than nine seconds, while the young four's winning mark of 6:14.36 was over 10 seconds quicker than the previous best set in 2006.
Murray and Bond will try and win their second gold medal of the champs and pull off a rare small-boat double triumph when they defend their world-record six-year unbeaten streak in the men's pair final tomorrow morning (NZ time).
The duo and Shepherd pulled past closest rivals Great Britain near the 500 metre mark and drew away to win gold and smash the previous best time set by Croatia in 1994 of 6:42.16. They finished over 10 seconds ahead of the GB crew of Scott Durant, Alan Sinclair and Henry Fieldman, with Germany claiming bronze.
Bond and Murray now possess two world's fastest times, after setting the standard for the men's pair during their gold-medal winning 2012 Olympic regatta at Eton Dorney in London.
The women's four crew was only assembled a month out from Amsterdam. After a compelling performance in the women's pair when they won silver at the final World Cup regatta in Lucerne last month and gold at the world under-23 champs in Varese, Italy, Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast gained selection to the senior team and were joined by Pratt - a bronze medallist in the pair last year - and Bevan.
They led by a boat length after 700m and continued to pull away from the rest of the field, beating home the United States by more than six seconds with China third. In doing so, they destroyed the previous world's best time set by Australia in 2006 by more than 10 seconds.
New Zealand boats also qualified for four more A finals, through single scullers Mahe Drysdale and Emma Twigg, women's double scullers Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke and the lightweight men's four.
Steering problems saw Stevenson and Bourke fifth early but they managed to come home in third spot to make the final on Sunday night (NZ time), with the Australian crew of Sally Kehoe and Olympia Aldersley winning in 6:37.31, ahead of defending champs Lithuania. The winning time was quicker than the previous world's best set by Kiwi double Olympic champs Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell at the 2002 world champs.
Drysdale was second in his semifinal in 6:44.42, five seconds behind Germany's Marcel Hacker, while Twigg was again impressive in winning her semi in 7:18.68, over five seconds ahead of Austria's Magdalena Lobnig.
The NZ men's lightweight four featured a crew change, with Alistair Bond coming in to replace the injured James Lassche. The crew of James Hunter, Peter Taylor Alistair Bond and Curtis Rapley finished third behind Denmark - who set another new world's best time - and Great Britain to advance to the final. Lassche could return to the boat for Sunday night's final if his back injury heals well enough, after Bond was scratched from the C final of the lightweight double scull with crewmate Adam Ling to fill the spot.
Men's double scullers Karl and Robbie Manson will contest the B final after they were fourth in their semifinal.
Overnight, NZ will contest A finals in the women's pair (Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt), men's pair, lightweight women's double scull (Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie) and women's quad (Erin-Monique Shelton, Georgia Perry, Lucy Spoors and Sarah Gray).