Rowing: Three Olympic champions to take year off

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - Double Olympic rowing champions Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are taking 12 months off next year to decide whether they will continue in the pairs after eight years of domination.

Twice Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale has also decided to take a year off, Rowing New Zealand (RNZ) said in a statement on Friday (Nov 18), with an eye to competing in Tokyo 2020 at the age of 41.

Bond and Murray were put together in the pairs in 2009 and were unbeaten until the 2016 Rio Games.

The Kiwi duo collected seven world titles, one in the coxed pairs in 2014, and two Olympic gold medals. They won more than 60 successive races together.

"All the athletes taking a break have made a huge contribution to our sport and have our support to take a short break before launching into the 2020 Tokyo campaign," RNZ high performance director Alan Cotter said.

"They have worked extremely hard over a number of years to achieve their results."

Drysdale took a similar year-long sabbatical after winning gold at the London Games in 2012, a year in which he competed in a multi-sport event across New Zealand's South Island, Ironman triathlons and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

"Tokyo was never something I thought could be on the horizon but after that (2012) break I have just loved the rowing so much and it's so exciting to still be improving," Drysdale told Reuters before the Rio Games.