Tokyo Olympics 2020: Michael Burgess – Golden pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast become New Zealand’s newest sporting heroes

ANALYSIS:

Meet New Zealand’s latest pair of Olympic rowing heroes.

Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast dominated the rest of the field and had supporters across the country glued to their screens to win the final of the women’s pair on Thursday – and with it New Zealand’s first gold of the Tokyo Games.

It was a sensational performance from the duo, who timed their run to perfection in the final, seeing off strong efforts from the Russian and Canadian crews.

It’s never easy being favourites, and there was an extra weight of expectation after they had set a world record in their semifinal.

They would have also been aware of New Zealand’s wait for gold, and that all their great results over the previous four years wouldn’t mean so much, without a fitting climax at the Tokyo Sea Forest Waterway.

But none of that seemed to matter; there was no hint of nerves, no sense that the external pressure and momentous occasion would affect them.

Instead, they produced their best, at the best possible moment.

They trailed Canada by 0.98 seconds after the first quarter, as the North Americans tried to impose themselves on the race. But the Kiwis bided their time, with a more efficient stroke rate, knowing their strength was in the second 1000 metres.

By the halfway point, Gowler and Prendergast were only 0.41 behind Canada, as they started to accelerate.

From there they made inexorable progress, rowing through and past the Canadians. They were straining every sinew – as Prendergast glanced across at the opposition – but a sense they had more in reserve.

By the 1500m mark, they were 0.79 ahead of the Canadians and once they hit the red buoys it was clearly time to start celebrating. The Russian Olympic Committee boat made a late charge for silver, but the Kiwis crossed the line 1. 26 seconds ahead to bank New Zealand’s first gold in the women’s pair.

ROC claimed silver, with the Canadians getting bronze.

Full Kiwi schedule below. Click on a name to see athlete’s bio, upcoming events, past Games performance and medal chance.

“We crossed the line and I started yelling ‘have we done it?’, an emotional Gowler told Sky Sport. “We crossed and I was like ‘was someone ahead of us?’ I was just so focused on us so I was like ‘did we do it?’. I can’t believe it. It’s amazing. I’m so glad.”

Prendergast seemed to be in disbelief, after the perfect culmination of seven years of toil together.

“It’s such a whirlwind and such a dream,” she told Sky Sport. “I’m just so stoked.”

The Kiwi pair had been remarkably consistent across this Olympic cycle. They won the World Championship title in 2017 and 2019 and were runners-up in 2018.

They had produced an impressive display in difficult conditions during their semifinal, producing a new world best time of 6.47.41 on their way to qualifying for the A final.

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