Even if it was the least surprising gold medal today, the NZ men’s pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond won their 69th strait race (71 if you include Henley)! Here is what they had to say after the race.
What was your game plan for this race?
Murray: The only thing we've ever done is just try and hold a speed that's unsustainable for anybody else. We haven't really tried to sprint out of the blocks and then slow down. We've just really tried to get out on steady pace and then try and maintain it throughout the race. I think if you can do that, you sacrifice a little in the first part, but then you've got a steady pace for the rest of the race. If you go one or second quicker per quarter than anybody else, you can be three seconds or four seconds or five seconds from the finish line.
What were you thinking during the last 500?
Murray: Yeah. We really hammered the third five. We still had contact with everybody coming through the thousand. We just knew if you can take some water on people coming into the last five, then they can't really see where you are. Subconsciously, you're just going to be worried about your position and your medal, and I think that's what happened between Great Britain, Italy, and South Africa, and Australia were fading a little bit on our left. They were fighting for the second and third. They're starting to think "I want a medal" and they go through that and they don't even worry about us. The race was over by then for the gold medal as long as we stayed clean and got to the finish line, and so we did.
You've won lot of emphatic races, you two guys. Is it emphatic as they come, would you say?
Murray: Yeah. There's a lot of relief involved in that, because there was a lot of expectation on us. And fair game, because we haven't been beaten, so there's always the pressure to perform. But we put that pressure on ourselves. We would be the most disappointed if we hadn't lived up to our expectation, and now we can just enjoy the fact that we've put so much time and effort into it to get to that race. That race was just about going out there and executing it. So, we're far prouder of what we have done before that to get to this point than we are of that actual race. And that's the biggest thing, you know, but cake's not very good without icing on it, but you can't have just icing. You want to have a really nice, big cake that tastes really good with the icing and the cherry on top.
You talk about putting pressure on yourself, but how have you dealt with that through this long unbeaten run?
Murray: Thing is, it's just the day-to-day going out there, and the biggest thing is once you learn how to win, you've just got to benchmark. So, you win and you go, "Right, how much training did we do? How hard was that training? We've got to do that at least again or better if we want to keep improving." And that's what we had to do, we just had to do it better to keep improving. If we were trying to be one step ahead of our opposition, we always had the philosophy that if people were looking at where Hamish and I were and thinking, right, we've got to be doing what they're doing to win... We were always thinking, right, how are we going to get another half step ahead of everybody else. And that's what we've done. I fully believe that the field... Definitely the whole field has got quicker in these last four years. We had a great rivalry with the British prior to London and they ended up pulling up and going into the four and winning a gold medal, so that was great for them. But basically, that's all we try to do, is just stay that one little step ahead of everyone else, and I think that's what we've been able to achieve.
How does this compare to London?
Murray: It's amazing, because London, the luster of trying to win that gold medal was intense. You did everything possible. You just do exactly what your coach told you to do and you didn't question anything. This time we've just tried to make it that little bit better, because it was bloody hard last time. We knew it was going to be bloody hard this time. And we just had to make sure that we were in the right mental space to do it, because it's difficult. There won't be any Olympic athlete out there that says, "Oh, that was really easy four years of training to get to this." And that's all we had to do, is we had to make it enjoyable in order to win.
And you two are pretty relaxed guys, but how were the nerves this morning?
Murray: Well, if you're not nervous, I don't think... It doesn't mean enough to you, and so we were nervous. We were bloody nervous, and we just had to make sure we went out there and did it properly. And that's all it was about, is just going out there and doing what we've done before, nothing different. You know, you can't all of a sudden go, "I'm going to go into a race and do something I've never done before," because it's probably never going to work. If you've never been in that hurt zone, you've never been to that point of failure, how do you think you're just going to pull it out on race day? And that's all we had to do, is just live up to our expectations and our ability, and that was it.
DO you think you will be around 4 years from now?
Murray: Oh, mate, I don't know. We'll wait. We'll wait and see how that goes.
Talk about how you approach a race with such high expectations?
Hamish: My personality is perhaps that anything could go wrong and to keep driving for more and more speed and get closer and closer to perfection as we can. I guess, I hope the odds are in our favor that we're going to win, and having that view has been tough, but I’m just pleased that we could get over the final hurdle. It would've been a shame to have done four years and then trip up in the last race.
Pretty much every decision you make in the back of your mind is how will this fit into my rowing, will this make me go faster, and you have to balance that up every single decision you make, whether you're having breakfast, whether you go for a walk in the morning, how late you go to bed. Every single decision we make always has a caveat of how it will affect the rowing, so it'll just be nice not to have that in the back of my mind for a little while.
Is it possible you will take some time off?
Hamish: Yeah, no, that's a possibility. We'll just take some time and there's no point in making decisions now. We're really pleased or looking forward to taking the next almost two weeks to spend here in Rio and support the rest of the New Zealand team that's had a rough last couple of days, and hopefully we'll be able to kick start a little bit of a mental rush. We really want to get out there and support the rest of the country and hopefully we can bring home some more success, because we know that everyone's worked really hard and it's tough at the Olympics. Everyone works hard all around the world and there's only one gold medal per event. Although multiple may deserve it, you got to go out and take it.
Was that on your mind? That something hadn't gone to plan so there was a bit more pressure on you?
Hamish: Yes and no. I mean, at the end of the day, once you get on the water you forget most of those things. That external pressure doesn't really mean anything in terms of pressure we put on ourselves, so we're pleased that we're able to get it done first and foremost for ourselves, and then for the country and the team as well.
How difficult has it been with you two having such different personalities?
Hamish: I mean, they're different, but I guess they're complimentary as well. I really respect where each other comes from and that's important, but yeah, it's worked out well. My little brother's racing, so I got to go watch.