Rowing: Second Bond has hopes of Olympic glory at Rio

Alistair Bond.
Alistair Bond.
There is more than one Otago rower named Bond hoping to be on the winner's podium at this year's Rio Olympics.

Lightweight men's coxless four crew member Alistair Bond, the younger brother of Olympic and world champion rower Hamish, has been quietly carving his own promising path towards Olympic glory in the past 12 months.

The 26-year-old was part of crews which won gold at World Cup events in Switzerland and Italy last year and the four had its sights firmly on a medal in Rio.

The crew finished fourth at the world championships in France in September and Bond said while the crew was disappointed with that result, it had helped to make it stronger.

"We think we have an idea about some of the reasons [for the performance] and we're hoping to correct what went wrong.

"We think if we're rowing at our peak then we're capable of winning a gold medal.''

There was no specific reason for the drop in form and the result was down to a lack of cohesion, Bond said.

"I think it was just sort of a technical adjustment.

"Rowing's quite a rhythmical sport.

"In a bigger crew boat, you've really got to be rowing in sync with each other and we felt perhaps we just lost our rhythm a little bit.

"We arguably just didn't fully understand what made us go well when we did do well.''

The Olympic crew was selected following national trials last month and it did not include Curtis Rapley, who was part of the World Cup triumphs.

Rapley was replaced by Peter Taylor, who had previously been involved with the crew.

Bond joined the crew in 2014 and the five rowers had been competing for the four spots since then, he said.

The recent change in personnel had been a challenge but there had been plenty of time to iron out the kinks before Rio.

"It's the first time this particular combination's been together.

"We haven't raced together yet but we've had pretty comprehensive internal racing to select the crew to work out the fastest combination.

"We feel like we're rowing quite well and everything seems to be on track.''

The New Zealand crew was likely to face its toughest competition from the Swiss, Danish and French crews, Bond said.

The Swiss team produced a dominant display to win the world championships in September by more than two seconds and beat the Kiwi crew by almost four.

"The lightweight fours are usually pretty close and they had a pretty comprehensive victory.

"They're probably the classiest crew.

"But you never quite know what the rest of the world's doing.

"People always come out of the woodwork in Olympic year.''

Bond, who is affiliated with the Otago University Rowing Club, is based in Cambridge with the rest of the New Zealand team.

The team would leave in three weeks for the World Cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland, at the end of May before travelling to Poznan in Poland for the next World Cup event in mid-June.

It would then be based in Slovenia for about six weeks before travelling to Rio 10 days before the Games.

Despite the success of his older brother, Bond felt no extra pressure to follow in his footsteps.

"He's a phenomenal athlete. I have no desire to one-up him or anything like that.

"He's one of the most successful athletes of all time and I'm just hoping to do my own thing.

"His final will be an hour before mine at the Olympics, should we get to that point. To both be on the winner's podium would be pretty special, but it doesn't provide any extra motivation.''

It was the first time a New Zealand lightweight men's four had qualified for the Games.

damian.george@odt.co.nz

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