Kiwi duo eye more rowing history
London: New Zealand`s Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will look to take sole possession of the longest winning streak in men`s rowing when they bid for their 14th straight major title at the World Cup regatta on the London Olympic course of Eton Dorney this weekend.
The 27-year-old Bond and 31-year-old Murray, who`ve never lost a competitive rowing event as a duo, are currently tied on 13 consecutive major titles, equal with the Danish lightweight four of 1996-1999 and the German men`s eight of 2009 to date, although the Germans have gone through several crew changes.
As far as many within the sport are concerned, the Kiwis` place in rowing history has already been secured.
"They are regarded as the quickest pair there has ever been," said Tom James, Britain`s double Olympic gold medallist.
Yet the New Zealanders` stellar career was forged on the back of a loss.
In 2008, Bond and Murray were in the New Zealand four that disappointed at the Beijing Olympics, finishing seventh in a competition won by Great Britain.
After the Games, the strongest two oarsmen in the victorious British crew -- Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed -- decided to switch from the four to the pair.
The two men had combined to win every British trial since 2004 and were, and remain, outstanding physical specimens with giant lung capacities ideal for the six minutes of aerobic agony required to win medals at rowing.
But if they were hoping to dominate the run up to London 2012, they were to be disappointed, because -- out of the wreckage of the defeated New Zealand boat -- Bond and Murray had also decided to switch to the pair.
The first competitive match-up between the four men took place at the opening World Cup regatta of the 2009 season in Munich.
Half way through the race, the Kiwis were already rowing off into the distance, eventually finishing more than three seconds ahead of Hodge and Reed.
At the next World Cup race, in Switzerland, the Kiwis won again, this time by five-and-a-half seconds.
And so it continued, all that summer, at World Cups, at World Championships and at the Henley Royal Regatta
Of the two New Zealand oarsmen, Murray better fits the profile of the star athlete. He is tall, 6ft 4in (2.01m), broad and wears trademark mutton chop blonde whiskers.
On the rowing machine, he once clocked up 18.73 theoretical kilometres in 60 minutes (a world record).
Murray is also exceptionally proficient in the single sculls.
Last year, Murray took on his team-mate Mahe Drysdale, the single scull world and Olympic champion, at a local regatta in New Zealand. He beat Drysdale by half a second.
Despite Murray`s impressive athleticism, it is the shy, round-shouldered Bond who excites the most fascination within the rowing community.
Bond is not particularly tall nor heavy, but his strength-to-weight ratio is astonishing.
Martin Cross, a British gold medallist at Los Angeles 1984 and now the BBC`s rowing correspondent, explained: "Bond is much smaller than Andy Hodge, but his ergo scores are right up there, which means he can shift his weight more effectively in the boat. He`s simply a beautiful, fluid athlete."
Altogether, Bond and Murray won three consecutive World Championship titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Hodge and Reed ran the New Zealanders hard in 2010 on the Kiwis` home water at Lake Karapiro -- the British pair led going into the final 1,500m in one of the gutsiest races ever contested -- but the final defeat, by 0.32 seconds, was as close as they would ever get to beating their New Zealand rivals.
At London 2012, the Kiwis won the Olympic gold long predicted for them setting a new world best time along the way (rowers usually refer to `world best` rather than `world record` times because of the difference in water conditions from race to race).
Hodge and Reed also won gold on the Eton Dorney lake -- but only after switching to a four to compete alongside James and Alex Gregory.