Men’s Olympic pair; a race of two measures
Looking back on the 2012 Olympic final in the men’s pair it was pretty clear that, barring absolute disaster, the New Zealanders had the gold medal clearly in their sights. But who would get the silver and bronze?
This is the second story in a weekly series of reviews where World Rowing remembers the 14 events at the London Olympic Rowing Regatta. This week we look back on the men’s pair.
New Zealand’s Eric Murray and Hamish Bond proved all of the data right by winning gold. The odds of winning had been in their favour simply because ever since they joined together in a pair in 2009, they had never lost a race. Murray and Bond were also the only crew to set a new World Best Time at the London Olympics when, in the heats, they recorded a time that was a huge six seconds faster than the previous, 10-year-old Pinsent and Cracknell, record. The time of 6:08.50 also set a new World and Olympic Best Time, breaking Redgrave and Pinsent’s previous long-standing best times.
In the London Olympic final, Murray and Bond lined up next to Great Britain’s George Nash and William Satch as the two semifinal winners. But it was France’s Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette who came out of the starting blocks in the lead. This is the method Chardin and Mortelette had used in their heat earlier in the regatta when they raced against the New Zealanders and led at the start.
Chardin and Mortelette had a bumpy ride to the London Olympics. They are bronze medallists in the men’s four from the 2008 Beijing Olympics but a 13th place finish at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in the four did not make the cut and the crew missed out on qualifying for London. Chardin and Mortelette, however, did not stop their Olympic dream. They came back as a pair to compete at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May this year. They finished first securing a spot for the London Olympics.
In the London final, despite Chardin and Mortelette’s early lead, Murray and Bond were able to push ahead of the French going through the 750m mark and had more than half a boat length lead by the middle of the race.
There is a bit of history between the French and New Zealand rowers. At the Beijing Olympics, Bond and Murray were racing in the men’s four and had come to Beijing as the reigning World Champions. In the semifinal, New Zealand and France raced each other. France finished third to qualify for the final while New Zealand, half a second back in fourth, was out of the final.
One of the motives that brought Murray and Bond together in the pair after the Beijing Olympics was disappointment in their Beijing results and the desire to change the score. Meeting Chardin and Mortelette in the final in London must have surely given them just one more reason to give the race their all.
Once at the head of the field, Murray and Bond proceeded to show that they were in a class of their own. Olympic rowing is better known for tight finishes, but the men’s pair was not shaping up to be this way. With the final 500m coming into view, Murray and Bond had moved away from the entire field, building up a huge yawning open water lead of nearly six seconds. The real battle was for second. Italy, Great Britain and France were tightly bunched together as they came into the final sprint.
Murray and Bond became the Olympic Champions. Chardin and Mortelette performed the sprint of their lives to finish second with Nash and Satch coming through in third.
There were only happy faces on the medals podium with Chardin and Mortelette having the added status of being the only French crew to win a medal on the waters of Eton Dorney.