Tokyo Olympics: New Zealand's Grace Prendergast, Kerri Gowler win rowing gold in women's pair

New Zealand has its first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

Rowers Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler won the women's pairs final at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo. 

The reigning world champions started slowly, but by the 1000m mark they had hauled in al but the Canadian crew that opened up a boat length lead on the field through the first half of the race.

The Kiwi pair powered into the lead by the 1500m marker,  and never looked like being overrun, despite a fast finish from the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) crew who took the silver medal - more than a second behind Prendergast and Gowler.

Canada's Caliegh Filmer and Hillary Janssens held on for bronze - reward for a stunning race that pushed the Kiwis to deliver their best.

"I can't believe it," says a stunned Gowler.

"We crossed the line and I started yelling 'have we done it', but yeah It's amazing - I'm so glad.

"I was so focused on us when we finished that I asked Grace if we did it, so I'm still, yeah, I can't really believe it."

A "stoked" Prendergast says it's just reward for five years of hard work.

"It's been such a good season for us and regardless of the result today I was really stoked with how we have been going, but this is the ultimate cherry on the top," Gowler says. 

Despite a few anxious moments for Kiwi fans, Prendergast says she always felt they had the race under control, even with the surging Canadian's breaking the race open through the first 1000m. 

"We know from practice that we are faster when we are in out own boat. You have your own lane so that's  all you can do. You can't focus on anyone else, so it's heads down and It went by really fast. 

"It was incredible."