Olympics-Rowing-New Zealand storm ahead on first day of racing

DORNEY, England, July 28 Sat Jul 28, 2012 10:51am EDT

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DORNEY, England, July 28 (Reuters) - New Zealand's men took the opening day of the Olympic rowing regatta by storm on Saturday, setting one world best time, breaking an Olympic record and generally looking untouchable.

New Zealand's Eric Murray and Hamish Bond maintained their incredible recent form to win their pair heat on Dorney Lake by some nine seconds, or three boat lengths of clear water, to shatter the old world best time and storm into the semi-final.

The pair, who won gold in the last three world championships and have not been beaten since they teamed up in 2009, recorded a time over 2,000 metres of six minutes and eight seconds, well below the previous world best time of 6:14 set by Britain's Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell in Seville 10 years ago.

The time, recorded on a hot day with a slight tail wind, also smashed the previous Olympic best time of 6:20 which was set by Pinsent and Steve Redgrave in Atlanta in 1996.

"There's one thing saying you're really well prepared and there's another to go and show you're prepared, but this has given us a real confidence boost," Murray told reporters as he came off the water on a scorching hot day on the course to the west of London.

Bond added that the pair had had no clue of how fast they were going as they raced in front of packed grandstands to huge acclaim, with the predominantly British fans standing to applaud the margin of victory.

Such is the strength of the New Zealand squad, however, that Bond and Murray will still have to compete with their team mates for the media attention back home.

Just over an hour earlier, the New Zealand men's double sculls team Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan shaved a split second off an Olympic best time when they sprinted through the field to win their heat to progress to the semi-final.

While New Zealand's most famous rower, the five times world champion and single sculler Mahe Drysdale, progressed through his heat without any drama.

Rowing records its times in Olympic and World best times and not world records because of the impact the weather conditions can have on a race. (Editing by Matt Falloon)

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