May 1, 2017
Relive the Rio M2- final: As we reported it at the time
What can be said about two oarsmen acknowledged as the best in the world, who have strode like colossi over their event for eight years?
While Eric Murray and Hamish Bond were busy dominating the men’s pairs race for the 69th time in their extraordinary career, the final touches were being put to their autobiography, The Kiwi Pair, which went to press a week after the race, as they flew back from Brazil with their second Olympic gold.
The challenging waters on the Lagoa didn’t faze Murray and Bond, but they weren’t the only fast starters in an event where most of the other competitors might admit they were really racing for silver. France and Australia were the other heat winners, followed by keen runners-up Italy, Britain and South Africa, while Serbia caused headlines by flipping, and probably doing the others a favour by proving how unrowable the conditions really were for the smallest boats.
The repechage put Serbia’s exclusion right, but after the shake-down in the semi-finals it was the same six quick crews from the heats who found themselves in the final, with Holland’s regular mid-season medallists Roel Braas and Mitchell Steenman feeling unlucky to miss out by less than a second. They didn’t even manage to claim the B-final title, being pipped to seventh overall by the Czechs.
In the A-final, the re-coronation of the reigning kings of the water was a formality – the Kiwis’ black blades carved imperiously through the lake from a relaxed start to a massive clear-water lead. Granting their chasers some dignity, they came slightly off the throttle in the early part of their last quarter and until the battle for second came blasting back to them, they could enjoy the picturesque surroundings. A quick sprint kept them clear as Britain, South Africa and Italy wound up their scrambles to the line. South Africa’s Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling claimed silver – Brittain spent October 2014 to February 2015 undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Italy held their nerve and sliced through the British hopes for third.
This article first appeared in Row360 Issue 13 // © Row360