By John Mehaffey
DORNEY, England (Reuters) - Three New Zealand rowers brought two Olympic titles to their South Pacific nation within the space of 40 minutes on Friday on a golden day for the Kiwis.
Victory to Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, disparate characters with a single aim, in the men's pair was followed by a win to Mahe Drysdale in the men's single sculls, one of the toughest races in the Olympic regatta.
It was the best hour for a New Zealand Olympic team since Peter Snell and Murray Halberg won gold medals on the track in the space of 60 minutes at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Murray, an extrovert with the facial hair of a 1970s rock star, and the softly spoken Bond, have been unbeaten for three years and set a world best in the semi-finals.
France tried to upset their rhythm by setting off fast but the New Zealanders remained unperturbed, pulling away to win by two lengths without appearing to exert themselves unduly.
Afterwards the pair were asked if they saw any resemblances between themselves and the national All Blacks rugby side, who won their first World Cup for 24 years in 2011 at the expense of the French.
"Obviously the All Blacks are the pinnacle of sport in New Zealand," Bond replied. "The pressure was my biggest fear, not being able to deliver on what I knew I was capable of, it was a lot of effort and a lot of training.
"Somebody did the stats, it was like 17,000 strokes for every stroke in the final, which is quite ludicrous."
Asked how he would celebrate, Murray said: "We will take a night to celebrate, I think we deserve it. We have put a lot of effort into it.
"It's one thing to say you are going to be an Olympic champion, it's another to become one. And to become (one) is just amazing."
Drysdale, 33, whose first name is not Polynesian as generally assumed but the name of an island in the Seychelles where his parents had been on holiday, had been helped to the podium to receive his bronze medal in Beijing four years ago after vomiting violently.
Because of a back problem he trains half the time on a bike and half in a boat and last June he was knocked off his cycle by a car before the Munich World Cup regatta.
The five-times world champion put all his troubles behind him on Friday as clouds and light showers were succeeded by bright sunshine to hold off a spirited challenge by second-placed Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.
"I had a dream about 12 years ago that I wanted to be an Olympic champion and it's been a tough road," said Drysdale, who was born in Melbourne and spent his early life in England.
"It's taken me three Olympics to get there but to me it's like you can achieve your dreams if you go out there and work your butt off.
"That's really where that gold medal came from, it's hard work. One of the reasons it was tough this morning was obviously that Beijing for the last few days has been at the back of my mind.
"I failed there, if I had of won in Beijing it would have been a lot easier. That was tough, you only get one or two opportunities in your life."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)