Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Hamish Bond: Ready to make more Olympic history at Tokyo 2020

Two-time rowing champion is looking beyond Olympic qualifying at the 'last chance regatta' in Lucerne 15-17 May and ahead to Tokyo 2020
By Ashlee Tulloch

Two-time Olympic champion Hamish Bond knows how to perform on the world stage, and that's exactly what he'll have to do this weekend when he competes with the New Zealand men's rowing eight in Lucerne, Switzerland, from 15-17 May.

The Kiwi crew will race at the 2021 World Rowing final Olympic qualification regatta where only the first two boats to cross the line in the final will earn Tokyo 2020 qualification. The event is aptly named the 'last chance regatta' – If they miss the cut in Lucerne, they miss out on Tokyo.

Bond has big belief and big ambitions.

"I'm confident that we can qualify," Bond told Newshub. "But if we were just looking to qualify, I wouldn't be here.

"I'm here to win medals. I think that's what we can do with the group."

Bond sees the regatta as part of the Olympic process.

It's not surprising he has this view; after all, this is a man who in the coxless pair with Eric Murray was unbeaten for eight years and 69 races. That included two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship titles.

"I’m not getting ahead of myself by any means. The goal of coming back to rowing and being part of the eight was to get on the podium," Bond told ODT.

"I’m not putting disappointment or targets on anything, but the group we’ve assembled is capable of medalling should we get things right. Hopefully, we qualify and kick on from there."

The odds of the Kiwis making it are 50/50.

According to World Rowing's entry list, just four crews will contest the men’s eights race: New Zealand, Romania, Italy and China.

The Kiwis biggest rivals will be Romania who finished second behind Great Britain at the European Championships in April. Italy were fifth.

Olympic champion ready to make history

Given what Bond has achieved in the past, the New Zealand men's eight are sure to draw on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion's experience. Especially as they look to make history.

"It's the one thing in the sport, in New Zealand, that we haven't achieved in the last sort of 20 years. We've basically won everything else and achieved everything in the sport, except for the eight." - Hamish Bond

New Zealand's last eights medal was a bronze at Montreal 1976.

It's almost 50 years since the Kiwis won rowing eights gold, at Munich 1972.

Joining the 35-year old on their Olympic qualifying quest is, Dan Williamson, Matt MacDonald, Michael Brake, Phillip Wilson, Shaun Kirkham, Tom Mackintosh and Tom Murray.

Five-time world champion and two-time Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale was previously in the boat before pursuing an unsuccessful bid to reclaim his solo spot at Tokyo.

But Drysdale aside, Bond believes the crew in Lucerne are up to the task.

"Individually, we are as good as any crew I think that's been assembled in terms of an eight.

"Success in the eight is being able to have the sum of the parts better than the parts themselves. It's beneficial to have really good parts to start with, but I think our success will be determined by how well we can collectively get the best out of ourselves."

Tokyo 2020 one year delay to their advantage

With the Games set to take place in July, a year after they were originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the men's eight were able to spend the extra 12 months preparing and coming together as a unit.

"It's been a real challenging process," Bond told Newshub, "but I'm confident in the group of guys that we've assembled. We just have to put a collective harness around the individual abilities we do have, which are really strong."

In 2019 the crew, which at the time still included Drysdale, won bronze at a World Cup in Rotterdam.

"We haven't competed since 2019 and we've got four guys remaining from that crew. We're a different crew, more experienced.

"We had some pretty young guys back in 2019, but they've really kicked on in the last two years, so for them, this extra year has been a benefit.

The extra time under the belt has also been valuable for Bond's mind and body.

"It gave me an extra year to come back from cycling, but luckily, I feel I'm as strong as I've ever been as an athlete and fortunately I've been able to maintain that into my more advanced years."

Life after golden partnership with Eric Murray ends

It was thought Bond's Olympic rowing days were all but over after he switched to cycling after Rio 2016.

As well as winning the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze in the men's time trial, he clinched multiple national time trial tiles on the track and road and an Oceania title too.

But he returned to rowing in March of 2019 saying "the pull of the eight was stronger".

"My whole motivation for coming back to rowing from cycling was to give the eight a crack and I guess try and share what I felt I'd learnt and my experience over the past 10 years to the rest of the guys and really get I guess the final piece in the puzzle in terms of ultimate success for Rowing New Zealand on the international stage,'' he told RNZ in late 2019.