At the London 2012
Olympic Games, New Zealanders Hamish Bond and Eric Murray – the one with
the facial hair – were paddling to the start of their opening
heat of the men’s pair event. Like most rowers,
Bond and Murray kept their eye on the weather. They noticed there was a breeze
running directly down the 2km course
at the Eton Dorney rowing lake. Perfect rowing conditions. As the world number one crew, they were confident of
qualifying from their heat, but their minds were turning to a different possibility
altogether. In rowing, they do not
call them world records but world best times. Conditions for rowing can vary
so much, it’s hard to establish an even playing field
across all competitions. But no matter what the weather, it does not stop top rowers
wanting to set records. The world best time for
the men’s pair had been set by the Great Britain duo of Matthew Pinsent
and James Cracknell and had stood for ten years. To put that time into
perspective, it’s more than 23 seconds quicker than the 2008
Olympic Final, won by Australia. And so, that morning,
looking up at the skies, the two Kiwis held
a conference on the water. Bond and Murray made a good
start. But before we see what
happened, we have to explain a little bit more about
these two remarkable athletes. Bond and Murray were
in the New Zealand four that failed to make the
men’s final at Beijing 2008. Disappointed, they decided to give it a go as a pair. The results were extraordinary. In their first competitive race
together, they came up against the top British pair
and beat them by three seconds. A few weeks later,
they beat them again. And then again. In fact, they remained unbeaten
the entire season, becoming World Champions in
2011. They won
the World Championships the next season too,
and the season after that. In fact, they succeeded in going through
an entire Olympiad – the four years
between Olympic Games – winning every single race. To keep themselves challenged, the two athletes would compete
against one another on a rowing machine, achieving jaw-dropping
feats of physical endurance. Bond set a new one-hour record of 18.44 theoretical
kilometres. And then
moustachioed Murray beat it. That’s the equivalent of rowing
nine Olympic 2,000m courses in 60 minutes, generating enough
electricity each in one hour to charge your smartphone
for 14 years. 14 years? That can’t be right. I’m going to look it up. Oh. What? Battery’s dead. Even after all that hard work, they still needed to mop up
afterwards. So, yes, Bond and Murray were
confident they’d get through that heat in London. They tore off down the water at a rate never seen before
on a rowing lake. There was only one boat in it. Quack! They were fast! The Kiwi pair set
a new world best time, beating the record
set by Cracknell and Pinsent by nearly six seconds. Cracknell took the loss of
that record with good grace. That must have felt good, but the Kiwi pair were not in
London only to set records. They were there to win Olympic
gold, and six days later, Bond and Murray were racing
in the final, although you’ll struggle
to see them in this picture. No warm front this time,
and no world best time, but yet another
victorious performance, and a first gold medal
for the New Zealanders. The invincibles!

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Dennis Veasley

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