Hamish Bond, rower extraordinaire, picked up the bronze medal in the 38.5km men’s cycling road time trial today, signalling a successful switch between sports at the highest level.
Bond, 32, is a legend of New Zealand sport – as a rower. He and Eric Murray formed a brilliant rowing pair and were unbeaten from 2008-16. In that time they picked up two Olympic gold medals and eight world crowns.
The moment Bond and Murray successfully defended their title in Rio in 2016, Bond, seeking a new sports challenge, turned his attention to the bike.
“I was already training for this day when I was still in Rio,” he said. “A couple of days after our gold medal there, I was on the trainer.”
For a novice international cyclist, Bond certainly attracted a lot of attention today, and he didn’t disappoint.
He was 27th away in a field of 55 and got better the longer he rode.
Eventually he was timed at 48min 45.45s. That put him in first place and he just had to wait to see if anyone could match his time.
Harry Tanfield, away 49th, and Australian speedster Cameron Meyer, away 53rd, were the only two who could go faster than Bond. Tanfield just shaded the New Zealander, recording 48min 43.30s. Meyer won with 48min 13.04s.
Bond was the fastest of anyone over the last 22km and finished looking far from distressed. It was an impressive performance by any measure.
Afterwards he was asked how cycling compared with rowing.
“I thought it would be easier than rowing, but it's so much harder,” he said.
“In terms of keeping things all running sweetly, there's so many things that can go wrong on a bike.”
He said he was satisfied with his ride. “I said when I got off the bike, I was pleased. Inevitably when you’re sitting in the hot seat and you see the margins, only a couple of seconds to second place ... you start thinking of all those things you could have done marginally better.”
Bond said he had always prided himself as a rower in being able to perform well on the big day and he was pleased to carry that ability over to cycling.
“Even when I won rowing races by seconds, within 10 minutes you’re dissecting it and trying to find ways to go faster. Unfortunately, I can’t switch that off.
‘I'm pleased with the decision to give this a go – life’s about challenges. You don't truly know what you're made of until you put yourself under tests like that, and I seem to have a habit of picking some pretty big ones to chew up.”
He was not carried away with his bronze medal today.
“There's been ticked boxes along the way and this was one of them.
“A medal was probably the requirement in terms of the ticked box to say ok, that job done, we can reassess and move forward. The world champs and Olympic Games is another level entirely – I’m realistic about that.
“While it was a well-executed good performance, I don't think it’s the ultimate that I can achieve on a time trial bike.”
When switching to cycling, he said he was targeting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The trick, he said, was to keep improving.
He said he was facing the “continual evolution of small returns” as he gained in cycling experience.
“The power I can put out, the position and aerodynamics I can hold and then how slippery and how quick you can get.”
New Zealand’s other competitor in the time trial, James Oram, was somewhat overshadowed by all the fuss around Bond, but nevertheless he turned in a tremendous performance. The 24-year-old finished fifth in 49min 40.72s.
Gold Coast 2018 Rio 2016 Commonwealth Games Olympic Summer Games James Oram Hamish Bond Cycling - Road