19 Jul 2016

Rowing: Bond and Murray, Mahe and Co

4:44 pm on 19 July 2016

If ever there was such as thing as a dead cert Olympic gold medal - rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are it.

The world champion New Zealand men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

The world champion New Zealand men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The reigning Olympic and six time world champion pair are unbeaten in their event since teaming up after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

With very different personalities, it is fair to wonder how such a combination has worked so well and for so long.

"I find a big part of our success is stringing hard [training] weeks together," said Bond.

"It's all very well to be a hero for a few days and then have a light training for a few days because you can't handle it or you're injured... so to be able to string hard weeks together week after week after week after week is where we really get our gains."

"In the last few weeks before a big competition you can get your technique right, you can't fake the fitness - that's something you have to have worked on for a long time."

While they make the perfect team on the water, they are certainly not the best of mates.

"We don't necessarily want to be in each other's pockets 24/7 but we get on fine," said Bond.

"It is a little bit testing at times but we'll keep persisting."

While the New Zealand pair have established a long-standing and successful partnership, it was clearly not a case of 'love at first sight' when they met more than a decade ago.

Bond told local news website The Spinoff last year that he thought the gregarious Murray was "an egotistical boofhead".

Time has changed that opinion though and they have "enormous respect" for each other's strengths and talents.

Murray, as the taller and heavier of the pair, provides more explosive power while Bond's "engine" keeps pushing them at a higher level for longer, he said.

"We know it's not going to be a cakewalk, ideally we'd make it look like a cakewalk but it never is.

"We put in a lot of work to make it look like it's easy, but certainly that's not the reality so it's not hard for us to bust that myth because we know how hard we have worked every single year to have achieved those margins and we know that our opposition... is always going to fight, you don't turn up for a regatta if you are not in it for a fight."

The indications are Rio will be the pair's last regatta together.

"It would be a great shame to come unstuck at the final hurdle, it wouldn't take away from what we have achieved but it would be a nice way to [finish], well, who knows, it might be the finishing point or it might not, [but] we do want to have that result as positive as possible."

As for conditions, Bond simply does not care whether the course is fast or slow, rough or smooth.

"Our philosophy, may be naively, is water is water. We've rowed in every sort of condition you can imagine.

"We're fairly confident in rough conditions, we feel as though they suit us... but in saying that we've got probably the fastest half dozen times in the world as well so if it's a fast course we know we can go fast."

Bond said the decision on their future will be made independently and that had perhaps been the key to their success - that while they work seamlessly as a team on the water, off it they have different lives.

Bond said physically he was certain they could do another four years and compete at Tokyo - the question will be whether they have the motivation to do so.

Mahe Drysdale - Single Scull

Mahe Drysdale celebrates winning gold in the Men's Single Sculls Olympic Rowing Final at London 2012 Olympics.

Mahe Drysdale celebrates winning gold in the Men's Single Sculls Olympic Rowing Final at London 2012 Olympics. Photo: Photosport

Mahe Drysdale is the defending Olympic champion in the men's single scull, having won gold at London four years ago.

Rio will be his fourth Olympic campaign.

In 2008 he proved his mental and physical toughness when he won a bronze medal in the event having succumbed to a stomach bug a couple of days before the final.

He might have managed to finish in the top three but he still has no memory of the final 200m of the race.

He collapsed after getting out of his boat and quite literally struggled to make it to the podium for the medal ceremony.

His build-up to this year's Olympics was marred when coach Dick Tonks walked out on him.

Rowing New Zealand terminated Tonks' contract after he refused to stop coaching a Chinese crew and Drysdale said at the time Tonks' decision had put his Rio campaign in jeopardy.

The matter was eventually resolved and Tonks, Drysdale and the women's world champion pair of Zoe Stevens and Eve Macfarlane resumed working together.

Mahe is a keen cyclist with a large portion of his training done on the bike due to a back injury he sustained in 2010.

He was born in Melbourne and lived in England until he was 11-years-old.

Mahe is a five-time World Champion, having taken the title an unprecedented three times in succession in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and then again in 2009 and 2011.

Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane - Women's Double

Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane go into the Rio Olympics as reigning world champions in the women's double scull.

Stevenson has won the world title for the past two years combining with Fiona Bourke in 2014 to win and then with MacFarlane in 2015.

For Stevenson this will be her first Olympics as a competitor although she did attend the London Olympics as a reserve.

Stevenson comes from a strong rowing family with father Herb a member of the New Zealand men's eight throughout the 1980's.

Eve MacFarlane will be competing at her second Olympics.

She competed in the women's quad in London but the boat suffered a gear failure and they finished seventh.

The pair train alongside reigning Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale and had Tonks and Rowing New Zealand not resolved the stand-off earlier this year, it could have scuppered their Olympic campaign too.

The double and Drysdale work together well in training, with the women providing Drysdale with an ideal pace boat in training and vice versa.

If Stevenson and MacFarlane can win in Rio, they will join sisters Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl as Olympic champions in the class.

Meyer and Earl (nee Evers-Swindell) won the gold medal at Athens in 2004.