Tokyo Olympics 2020: Eric Murray column – Strap in, tomorrow could be one of NZ sport’s greatest days


In his latest column for the Herald, Kiwi rowing great Eric Murray writes about New Zealand rowing’s new golden pair – and why more success could be in store tomorrow.

Life will never be the same for rowers Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast, after they won the Olympic gold medal in the pair.

And I’m picking that something similar will happen for more Kiwi rowers, on the final day of competition.

I believe Emma Twigg and the two eights will all make the podium, and it could even be three more golds.

In other words, we may well be talking about one of the great days in the history of New Zealand sport.

A bold prediction, I know.

But Twigg is rowing better than ever, and she must be the favourite now. She has overcome the disappointment of finishing fourth at two Olympics, and is an example of how to get a great balance in life and sport.

There is so much that goes into rowing technique. But she is rowing the best I’ve ever seen and looks so relaxed.

The women’s eight – with Gowler and Prendergast on board – are a tight-knit group who will be buoyed by the pair’s gold medal success.

And the men’s eight looked stunning in their repechage and were moving away from the others at the end of that race. I see something special emerging there.

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I was briefly worried during the pair final because there was something not quite right with Gowler and Prendergast’s steering.

But that’s how it can go in an Olympic final, and it simply added another layer of complexity to their famous victory. They didn’t panic and by the end it was the perfect Olympic race, because they came away with gold.

There is so much to deal with, including the pressure of New Zealand’s expectations. And they dealt with it.

Their lives will change as gold medallists. As Hamish Bond and I found out, you become public property because New Zealand loves to celebrate Olympic successes.

It will be a little bit different for our gold medal winners this time, because they will go into MIQ on returning home. They won’t feel the immediate adulation.

But when they do get out, Kerri and Grace will find they are in demand. They’ll get stopped in the streets and asked for selfies – people don’t really ask for autographs anymore. They’ll be lined up for events, media interviews and photographs. People look up to you.

They will come to grips with that over time.

Something else changes in terms of your relationship with the public.

They can never really exceed expectations again, because people now expect you to win.

Kerri and Grace won’t have any time to dwell on these matters after their triumph, because concentration will switch straight to the eights final.

But at some point I suspect that among the celebrations, they will also feel a huge sense of relief.

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