Olympic hero Eric Murray ‘I HAVE TO PUT MY SON FIRST'
Woman’s Day Magazine NZ|November 29, 2021
The sporting golden boy reveals the real reason he retired from rowing
Annemarie Quill

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Eric Murray may have retired from rowing, but the former athlete says he still has his greatest challenge ahead of him – creating a thriving future for his 10-year-old son Zac, who has autism.

Revealing that the active youngster was the real reason he gave up the sport in 2017, Eric tells Woman’s Day, “Zac was then five, about to go to school. His needs were growing. I needed to be alongside him in these important years. He’s more important than any race, win or medal.”

While the Cambridge-based star, 39, could have powered on to this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, where his former rowing partner Hamish Bond won a gold medal in the men’s eights, Eric has no regrets about his decision to retire.

“I love being with Zac,” he insists. “I enjoy the change of momentum from rowing. Apart from the fact that when you stop the hard training but keep eating like you used to, the kilos pile on – I have a bit of a dad bod going on!

“But seriously, I’d done everything I wanted to achieve in rowing. Hamish and I had this huge unbeaten run of 69 wins, including two Olympic titles and six world championship titles, which I’m assuming will never get beaten again in my lifetime.

“To continue would have been like stroking my ego, but I knew I had to get on with what matters now – my son and planning for how his life will pan out.”

Zac was 18 months and still not talking when Eric and his then-wife Jackie took him for tests. Eric was at the height of his rowing career, having just won gold in London in 2012, when he returned to New Zealand for the results.

“The diagnosis of autism was a shock,” he confesses. “But my sports training helped. There’s a lot of problem-solving and learning to deal with challenges in rowing, so I immediately started researching autism.”

A neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by difficulties with social interaction and communication, Eric feels that autism is poorly understood by the general public because it affects people so differently.

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