Athlete of the Month - June 2013
Hamish Bond was already on the New Zealand senior rowing team as a 20-year-old and a year later became a World Champion in the men’s four. The four was all lined up to go after a medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympicsbut it wasn’t to be. The crew finished out of the medals. But the seventh-place finish fuelled Hamish’s competitive desire. Hamish teamed up with Eric Murray in the pair in 2009 and together they have proven themselves unbeatable.
Hamish has only seen gold since 2009 – a winning streak almost unheard of in New Zealand and internationally. Hamish is 190cm of rowing prowess and for that World Rowing is proud to make him the June Athlete of the Month.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Hamish Bond: In Cambridge (home of the New Zealand Rowing national training centre). We leave for Europe on the 14th of June for the World Rowing Cup in Eton and then we’ll be racing at the Henley Royal Regatta and then to Lucerne (World Rowing Cup III).
WR: How did you first get into rowing? Does it run in your family?
HB: I started rowing at high school in Dunedin. I wasn’t playing a summer sport at the time. I did play cricket but quit because I didn’t enjoy spending a day standing on a field. I was a border at the school and the senior rowing kids came around and grabbed all of us that weren’t playing a sport and chucked us into a van and took us rowing. So I was pretty much forced to start. I was 13.
I don’t come from a sporting family. My dad, though, gives me grief as he used to row whaling boats in sea cadets with oars the size of tree trunks. He says they were much harder.
WR: Since you first started rowing how do you think the perception of rowing has changed in New Zealand?
HB: My perception when I first started was of this guy, Rob Waddell, and that he’d win the World Championships. Other than that I didn’t know anything about rowing. In New Zealand the older generation that grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s were quite familiar with rowing and the success of the men’s eight. Then there is a big gap. Now New Zealand has had a lot of success. Rob was the first of the new guard, then the Evers-Swindells, then Mahe (Drysdale) and all of us. We helped rekindle the sport amongst the nation.
The profile in the country is now very different as rowing is one of the biggest sports especially in terms of Olympic sports.
WR: So do people now recognise you when you walk down the street?
HB: People will look at me funny like, ‘where have I seen you before?’ If I’m with Eric it gives a context and people realise. But where I live in Cambridge gold medallists are a dime a dozen so I don’t really get noticed as people are used to it.
WR: When did you start to think you would have a chance at going to the Olympic Games?
HB: Later really. It’s funny, I guess my goals just kept getting higher and higher the further I progressed. I made the junior team and that was the goal. Then the goal was making the senior team, then going for the pinnacle, competing at the Olympics. Initially the goal was competing at the Olympics and then when we did well in 2007 (becoming World Champions) it wasn’t just about competing at the Olympics, but winning medals, especially gold.
WR: Was there a certain point at which you decided that you wanted to become an elite rower?
HB: I couldn’t pick one thing. I guess I was very lucky going through school and after school I had a great mentor, Fred Strachan. It gave me an advantage because he knew what was needed to get to the top level. I progressed a lot.
WR: Did Fred Strachan single you out?
HB: He was coaching at school and I wasn’t the best of the rowers as that usually comes when you grow and develop. Fred looked for people who put the effort in and if he saw that he would put in just as much effort back.
WR: Can you describe your toughest training session in your career so far?
HB: I can’t give away secrets. It was probably under Dick Tonks (coach) in the last four years. He’s known internationally for being tough and this worked for the (Evers-Swindell) twins. With Dick we did quite a few kilometres, so I’d say it wasn’t necessarily one single session, but doing hard sessions day in day out.
WR: After the 2008 Olympics did you ever consider quitting (after finishing seventh)?
HB: Not me personally. At Beijing I was only 22 and I’d only been on the team a short time. I know the older guys in the crew took it a lot harder. We had high goals after 2007. I was disappointed but I didn’t see it as the end of rowing, but more of a learning experience.
I didn’t take much time off. Probably about a month and then we were back into it; Me, Nathan Cohen, Storm Uru, Joseph (Sullivan), Peter Taylor and Mahe and it was telling as we all medalled in London. We started off training mainly in singles and it was really competitive and inspiring. We’d all try to take Mahe down.
WR: What made you decide that a pair with Eric would be the boat to row?
HB: It had been in the back of my mind since Beijing. We’d trained in pairs while we were preparing for the four and we had done some fast times. I knew that the combination had potential. Eric was taking time away from the sport and looking at his options and I approached him and he decided it would be worth a crack. Thankfully the selectors, in their infinite wisdom, agreed.
WR: Having remained unbeaten in your partnership with Eric, what is the closest you and Eric have come to not winning?
HB: It was the 2010 World Championship final in Karapiro against the Brits. That was the one race that during it I questioned whether we could win. It’s probably the only time I’ve really been worried.
WR: At the London Olympics you set a new World Best Time in the heats. Was that on your mind to aim for before the race?
HB: No, not really. I could tell in the warm up that it was in the back of Eric’s mind. We knew we had a tail wind and we were feeling good. But the race was more about setting a marker and blowing out some cobwebs.
WR: After becoming an Olympic Champion what is the most interesting request you have received?
HB: It was great when I first got back (to New Zealand) and one of the coolest things I got to do was the All Blacks (national rugby team) hosting all of the Olympic medallists in Dunedin. They introduced us at half-time to a full crowd of 30,000. It was a surreal feeling to have 30,000 people applaud and give a standing ovation. I’d almost put it on a par with the medal ceremony in London.
So far June has been a busy month for Hamish. Along with the New Zealand team, Hamish has done the long haul flight from New Zealand to Great Britain to race at his first international event of the season, the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Eton Dorney.
World Rowing: You’ve just arrived in Europe. Tell us about your favourite method for reducing jet lag.
Hamish Bond: I sleep as much as possible on the flight and that seems to work ok. We had a night flight out of New Zealand and I got into a good sleep pattern. When we arrive, for the first few days you have to tough it out and force yourself not to sleep during the day. I try to keep busy to keep awake and we’ve been told it’s important to get out into the sunlight.
WR: How do you like to spend your time on long-haul flights (when not sleeping)?
HB: I like to watch a movie now and again. I watched a couple on the way over. Although I don’t remember what they were now.
WR: With this travel to Europe for the international season, when was the last time that you had a full winter?
HB: I’ve been travelling every year since 2003 so 2002 was my last full winter. Typically we stay in Europe for close to three months. This year is a bit different as we’ll be away for one month then back home for a month and then to Korea (World Rowing Championships) for three weeks.
WR: You’re back again at the London 2012 Olympic regatta course, did it bring back any memories of the London Olympics?
HB: Hmm, I’m not a particularly emotional person. I guess I was struck by the lack of Olympic paraphernalia, but I’ve done a bit of training at Eton before the Olympics so I knew what it would be like. I do have a sort of satisfied feeling when I think back to the Olympics.
WR: If you could compare your fitness level now compared to this time last year, how would you rate it?
HB: Compared to this time last year it’s not too dissimilar. Obviously going into the Olympics we were really sharp and had very good speed and rhythm. This time I feel good and time will tell as we’ve been away from the action for so long so hard to tell how we’ll stack up.
WR: What do you like to do before a big race? Do you listen to music?
HB: No, I’m not really a music listener. I just try to relax. At the Olympics I took to reading to take my mind off the race. I try not to get wound up or nervous. Then once I’m on the water, I’m on autopilot and instinct takes over. Eric (Murray) calls the warm up and I just listen and just do as I’m told.
WR: Do you and Eric have specific roles in the boat?
HB: Yes and no. I think what’s good is that we both take the job of pushing the tempo. In training Eric does about 75 per cent of the talking, maybe because he’s behind me and so it’s easier to hear him. But I will add in if I want to try something different. In racing we don’t talk a lot.
WR: There was talk after the London Olympics that you and Eric may be part of an eight. Is this still a consideration?
HB: Yeah, we talked about it a but there’s a lot of things to overcome to be successful in an eight. We (New Zealand) don’t have a big base of rowers for an eight and the nature of our funding is against it. Our sport is funded by the number of medals so if we put all of our best into an eight we have less medal opportunities.
Eric and I really enjoyed the eight although I must say it’s the boat that I’ve done the least training in. It’s a blue riband event and I’d love to be in it as it is truly country versus country rather than us against other individuals. The boat certainly has an appeal, but, for us, it’s difficult to achieve.
WR: What do you like doing outside of rowing?
HB: For the last six months I’ve been building a house. I’ve been project managing the build and helping out with some of it. Other than that I used to spend a bit of time studying and finished my finance degree at the beginning of 2012. I also do a bit of reading.
WR: Any hidden talents?
HB: No, I’m not musical, I’m not artistic. I enjoy cycling and have had some success domestically.
WR: Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
HB: Who knows? Obviously I’ve been planning to carry on to Rio, although at this stage we’re taking one step at a time. Beyond that it will depend on how motivated I am and how the body holds up. At this level it takes its toll on the body so I am hoping to stay injury-free.
I’d like to stay involved in the sport and at some stage be able to give something back. Maybe coaching as Eric and I have learnt how to move the boat well.