WELLINGTON (Reuters) - One of rowing’s most dominant partnerships has ended with the retirement of double Olympic champion Eric Murray, who won back-to-back gold medals for New Zealand in the men’s coxless pair with Hamish Bond.
Murray’s exit from the sport ends the pair’s eight-year unbeaten streak at 69 races, a period in which they captured six world titles, took gold at the 2012 London Games and romped home in their Olympic title defense in Rio last year.
The ‘Kiwi pair’ announced after Rio that they would take a year off to weigh their careers before a possible tilt at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
But Murray, who will turn 35 on Saturday, said in an interview with New Zealand’s Woman’s Day magazine that his time had come.
“I always said as long as my mind, my body and my heart were in it, then I could do this for as long as I like,” he said.
“My mind’s been pretty good, my body’s been pretty good, but it was my heart that was on the fence. So, it’s time to go.
“We made a legacy in the sport and we got to the point where we were always winning, but it was playing on our minds and wearing us down. When we won a race, it was like, job done. We didn’t get that elation anymore.”
World record holders Bond and Murray also won a world title in the coxed pairs in 2014.
Bond, 31, paid tribute to his rowing partner.
“Eric’s retirement from rowing signals the end of an era,” he wrote on his Instagram account.
“I am very proud of all that we have achieved as a combination over the last eight years, far exceeding my wildest dreams.
“I have always respected Eric’s ability as a rower and will forever be in awe of some performances that seemed beyond human.”
Although both were driven to sustain their astonishing run of success, Murray and Bond were different personalities.
“He basically thinks we can’t lose, that we go out on the water and win,” the more mild-mannered Bond said of his team mate after their Rio triumph.
“I tend to worry about what will go wrong.”
Bond has yet to make up his mind about Rio, having shed more than 10 kg and reinvented himself as a road cyclist.
He finished third in the men’s time trial at the national road championships in January.
“I haven’t blocked out rowing, but I’m committed to cycling to take me through this season,” he told local media last month.
“If it’s clear I don’t have the ability I’m not going to bang my head against a wall and come up short. I can’t be pedaling in circles.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney