Golden haul for New Zealand rowers in London

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2013
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
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TOO GOOD: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won their 14th straight major title.

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The unbeaten record of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray reached new heights on a memorable finals day for New Zealand rowers in London.

The New Zealand duo easily won gold in the men's pair at the World Cup regatta at Eton Dorney tonight - one of four gold medals and a silver collected by a Rowing New Zealand team yet to reach full strength.

It's believed the pair set a new world rowing mark for consecutive victories with the win, achieved with ridiculous ease in a strong time of six minutes 16.01 seconds - a new best time for their event in World Cup history.

It was the 14th straight major title victory for the duo, who have been unbeaten since teaming up in the pair at the start of 2009. Their current streak includes last year's Olympic gold medal, three world championships (2009-11), nine World Cup wins and Henley Royal Regatta titles in 2009 and 2010.

Unofficial records puts that run ahead of the Danish lightweight four of 1996-1999. The German men's eight has also won 13 major titles since 2009, although the crew has been through a few changes in personnel in that time.

Bond and Murray had established a lead by the 500 metre mark and continued to pull away, with the Polish pair over 15 seconds back in second spot.

The Kiwis grabbed a second gold through the new double sculls combination of Michael Arms and Robbie Manson.

The two backed up their win in a lesser quality field in the opening World Cup regatta in Sydney in March by heading home Germany and Great Britain.

The crew have taken over their seats from last year's Olympic champions Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen.

They sat poised in the outside lane while Slovenia made an explosive start in lane one, the Kiwis soon gained control and held on late. New Zealand's winning time of 6:13.78 was 1.37 seconds quicker than the Germans.

The Kiwi lightweight four crew, consisting of James Hunter, James Lassche, Peter Taylor and Curtis Rapley then continued the collection of golds by wining a dramatic tussle against the crew from Denmark.

The four took a narrow lead through the first quarter of the tightly-contested race and held that throughout. The Danes looked like they'd grabbed the lead just short of the finish line but New Zealand came again to win in a photo-finish by 0.04 seconds.

Taylor won bronze at the venue last year at the Olympics in the lightweight double sculls with crewmate Storm Uru.

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Women's single sculler Emma Twigg, in her first major regatta of the year, won New Zealand's fourth and final gold of the regatta in some style.

Twigg, fourth at the 2012 Olympics, was behind Austria's Magdalena Lobnig after 500m but cleared out by the halfway stage to win comfortably from Sweden's 2010 world champion Frida Svensson and Eleanor Logan of the US.

The women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt opened New Zealand's medal account earlier in the morning (UK time) at the venue where this nation's rowers won three gold and two bronze at last year's Olympics.

The new combination of Scown and Pratt won silver, finishing just over two seconds behind the top Great Britain duo of Helen Glover and Polly Swann in an outstandingly quick time of 7:00.41 minutes.

The Kiwis were fifth after the first 500 metres but climbed into second at the midway stage and pushed the hosts hard over the latter stages.

Scown won bronze at last year's Olympics at the same venue with crewmate Juliette Haigh, who retired late last year and was replaced in the boat by Pratt.

Duncan Grant, first of the New Zealanders to row in A finals, was pipped on the line for bronze in the lightweight men's single sculls final.

Grant, the world champion in 2007-09, had a tough draw from lane one in the windy conditions that saw a re-draw to put the fastest qualifiers into the more favourable outside lanes. He led after 500 metres and was third with 500m to go, before missing out on bronze by 0.45 seconds.

The New Zealand men's four of Jade Uru, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Robert Kells and Adam Tripp put in a highly promising effort to finish fourth in their final behind Australia, Great Britain and Romania.

Earlier, Sullivan was fifth in the B final of the men's singles sculls.

Sullivan has had a rocky year to date. He was left out of the squad that contested the opening World Cup regatta in Sydney in March and while he's prefer to be part of the quad that also failed to make the A finals, Sullivan has been placed in the single scull for this regatta and the last World Cup event in Lucerne next month.

Fellow Olympic gold medalist Mahe Drysdale is aiming to be selected in the single for the world champs in South Korea in late August after an extended break.  

The men's single sculls A final was won by Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic, ahead of Great Britain's Alan Campbell. That pair were second and third respectively behind Drysdale in last year's Olympic final.

The New Zealand team will be bolstered for the final World Cup regatta in Lucerne by the arrival of a number of women's crews.

Rowing New Zealand high performance manager Alan Cotter was thrilled with the performances.

"It was an enormous team effort; all of our athletes performed extremely well and stepped up from the Sydney World Cup.

''These results give our crews an excellent benchmark ahead of the Lucerne World Cup, where we will see the fields strengthen further. Even those who were in B finals now have a taste of what the competition standard is like and where they can improve.

''All of our crews will want to step it up a notch in each of the upcoming regattas."

"Overall, this was a great regatta for the New Zealand rowing team.

''If we can continue to improve over the 2013 season we will be in good shape as we build towards the Rio Olympics in 2016."

The women's squad will compete at the Holland Beker regatta in Amsterdam this weekend, along with Twigg, while Drysdale will have his race of the year at the prestigious event.

- Waikato Times

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