Kiwi tied up in unbelievable rivalry spanning two decades, two continents and two completely different sports

There are some coincidences in sport that almost defy belief.

Take, for example, two rowers from different countries who won gold and silver at an Olympics eight years ago only to then find themselves competing against each other again at the top level of an entirely different sport.

Joseph Sullivan was one half of the New Zealand men’s double skulls team that claimed gold in London thanks to a classic come-from-behind strategy executed to perfection.

“It was exhilarating and it'll stick with me forever,” Sullivan said.

“I actually didn’t realise we won until I crossed the line - I actually thought we got third.”

Unfortunately, with every story of sporting triumph comes a tale of loss and this one belonged to Italian Romano Battisti.

“I remember that we were going to win, and I was convinced I was going to win.”

He didn’t, but fast forward to the present and now Battisti has a bizarre, almost unbelievable shot at revenge – as a grinder for Luna Rossa in the America’s Cup.

Battisti is now stationed in downtown Auckland just a few hundred metres from who else but Team New Zealand - and Sullivan.

Sullivan admits even though the transition from rowing to sailing isn’t totally unheard of, circumstances like these feel surreal.

“It’s not one of those things you think was going to happen,” Sullivan said.

“It was definitely a strange thing to see him on the list.”

Battisti feels the same way.

“I think it's very stimulating, both for me and for him. He will have to fight to reconfirm, I will have to fight to beat him.”

The pair have exchanged the odd message over the years but haven't met again in person. But that could come to an end informally on the water next week when Luna Rossa launches its second boat.