Eric Murray and Hamish Bond have formed one of the greatest combinations in rowing history. In fact, their five-year unbeaten streak from 2009-13, encompassing four world titles and an Olympic gold medal, bears comparison with the legends of any sport Murray, the older and bigger of the pair, was born in Hastings in 1982, but grew up in the Bombay Hills, south of Auckland, attending Pukekohe High School. He initially favoured rugby, and gained an introduction to rowing as a means of training for rugby. Pukekohe High had a strong rowing squad and soon Murray showed unusual ability in the sport. He joined the Mercer Rowing Club and soon caught the eye of the national selectors. By 2003 he was in the national squad and was a member of the men’s development coxed four. Murray must have developed very well, because the following year he was in the New Zealand coxless four for the Athens Olympics, alongside Carl Meyer, Donald Leach and Mahe Drysdale. Murray was the youngest of the quartet. The rowed well, finishing second in their heat, second behind Britain in their semi-final and fifth in the final. Their time in the final of 6min 15.47s was 8½ behind gold medallists Britain. Murray remained one of New Zealand’s rising rowers, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he broke through. That year Murray, Bond, James Dallinger and Meyer enjoyed a phenomenally successful season as a coxless four, winning seven out of eight major races. They broke the British coxless four’s sequence of 29 straight wins. At the 2007 world championships, in Munich, they were outstanding, winning the gold medal and setting themselves up as leading contenders for the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, things did not go well for the four in Beijing and they missed out on the final, eventually winning the B final to finish seventh overall. They were rather unlucky with their draw, however. In the semi-final, they were fourth (with only three to qualify) behind Britain, Australia and France, the same three crews that shared the medals in the final. Ironically, the New Zealanders’ time in winning the B final was faster than any crew achieved in the final proper. Entering the 2009 season, Murray and Bond teamed up in the coxless pair and they gelled immediately. They are hardly physical equals – Murray is 1.96m, Bond 1.89m. But out on the water they have proved untouchable, not just winning major races, but winning them in the grand manner, with seconds to spare. Their first big title was at the 2009 world championships in Poznan, Poland. They defended their world title on Lake Karapiro in 2010 in front of a passionate home crowd. Into 2011, with the eyes of the rowing world upon them, Murray and Bond continued their unbeaten streak, winning gold at the 2011 world championships in Bled, Slovenia, by the best part of two seconds. They were overwhelming favourites at the London Olympics, but shrugged off the pressure and won by an incredible 4.5s from the French and British pairs. In winning their heat, the New Zealanders took six seconds off the world record with their time of 6min 08.5s. After that, their opponents knew they were rowing for second. After 2012, some wondered if the New Zealanders had achieved all their goals, but they showed no sign of slacking off in 2013, winning their fourth world title as a pair (and fifth in all, including their fours gold in 2007) in Chungju, Korea, by the unheard of margin of nearly seven seconds. From 2008-13, Murray and Bond won 16 straight international finals - one Olympic gold, four world championship crowns and 11 World Cup titles. In that time they won 44 consecutive races, including heats and semi-finals. They proved to be at least as far ahead if their opposition as legendary champions of other sports, such as Michael Johnson, Edwin Moses, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps. From 2008-12, the golden pair were coached by Dick Tonks. In 2013, Australian Noel Donaldson took over the coaching reins. Murray and Bond have had success in other areas. In December 2011, Murray set a world record on the indoor rowing machine. On a Concept 2 Dynamic Rowing Machine, Murray covered the colossal distance of 18,728 m in one hour. In 2013, Murray took part in the Fight for Life charity boxing evening. He was unfortunate enough to be matched against rugby league star Manu (“The Beast”) Vatuvei and did well to survive the three rounds against such a physically imposing opponent. Murray and Bond have won the Team of the Year award at the Halberg Awards in 2007 (as part of the coxless four), 2009 and 2012, and in 2012 won the Supreme award after their superb performance in London. The New Zealand Olympic Committee also awarded them the Lonsdale Cup in 2012. The two champions were made Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013 New Year honours.

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