Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand reaffirmed their domination of the men’s pairs class on Thursday, romping home to win Olympic gold and extend their long unbeaten streak.
Murray and Bond, who also took gold in the event at the 2012 London Games, have now notched up 69 successive wins in coxless pairs.
“It’s been an amazing thing that’s at the back of our minds but not at the forefront,” Murray told reporters.
“We are always going out to win every race. To win another Olympic gold medal is an amazing achievement and we’re just happy we had an opportunity to go out and do it.”
Their victory on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon was hardly a surprise and other finals provided plenty of thrills and emotion.
Poland’s Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj put in a gritty performance to edge past Britain’s Katherine Grainger and Victoria Thornley in the final meters of the women’s double sculls, denying Grainger a second gold medal to match the one she took in London.
But the silver meant Grainger became the first British woman to win medals at five Olympic games and her all-time haul of five made her the most decorated British woman Olympian along with 1920’s tennis player Kitty McKane.
Croatian brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic secured a gold medal in the men’s double sculls, their country’s first Olympic rowing medal. Martin wept as he made his way from the pontoon but he said they were “beautiful tears”.
Six finals took place on Thursday, the first medal day in an event that has been dogged by bad weather that forced two days of racing to be called off. Other golds went to Germany in the men’s and women quads, and Switzerland in the lightweight men’s four.
Victory confirmed Murray and Bond’s status as one the greatest rowing partnerships of all time.
Lagging behind at the start, they forged a commanding lead by the midway point, widening the distance between themselves and the rest of the pack as the race went on.
“The race is 2,000 meters long and we’ve never been one to go out overly hard in the first k (kilometer),” Murray said.
“We’re just trying to maintain a pace no-one else can sustain. We know what we have to do to get the victory.”
The real excitement came in the race for second place. Cheered wildly by their supporters, South Africa clinched silver and Italy took bronze.
The women’s double sculls provided perhaps the day’s greatest tussle.
The Poland and Britain boats were neck-and-neck for much of the race. Britain led Poland by 0.64 seconds at the halfway mark and appeared poised to win, but the Poles summoned an extra burst of power with the finishing line in sight.
“In the last 100m we felt we could catch them and we pushed really hard. We knew we could make champions,” Fularczyk-Kozlowska said.
“Grainger is a legend but in Poland we say you have to beat the champions. In the race we did not think of it. It was just the British crew,” she added after winning Poland’s first women’s Olympic rowing medal.
In the men’s double sculls, the Sinkovic brothers fought a tough duel with Lithuania in which the two crews were level for much of the race.
After holding off Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis and Saulius Ritter through the 1,000-metre mark, Croatia slipped back into second in the third quarter.
But the brothers, formerly part of Croatia’s quad line-up, dug deep to win the gold.
“I think we are coming home in 12 days and my father will still be drunk,” Valent said.