Mahe's honour stirs up feeling

By Kelly Exelby

Mahe Drysdale's New Year award was furthest from his mind today as the triple world champion and Beijing Olympics bronze medallist journeyed through Russia. Drysdale, 30, was today made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
Drysdale was sent a letter last month informing him he was among seven Olympic athletes who won medals in August and New Zealand's three gold medallists at the Paralympics in September to get a New Year Honour.
"I'd semi-forgotten about it to be honest, although it was a surprise and I was a bit blown away when the letter first arrived," Drysdale said from London, before leaving to explore Russia.
"It'll be nice to have."
The Tauranga-raised athlete spent a few days with his family at Mount Maunganui over Christmas before leaving for the UK, and then to Russia.
Heading the sporting honours is Dave Currie, who led the New Zealand team in Beijing and has been in charge of the nation's Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams since 2000.
He is made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM).
Olympic gold medallists _ board sailor Tom Ashley and shot putter Valerie Vili _ are appointed Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).
Drysdale is joined as a MNZM by bronze medal coxless pair of George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle and 1500m bronze medal athlete Nick Willis.
Also appointed as a MNZM is cyclist Hayden Roulston, swimmer Sophie Pascoe, who won three gold medals and one silver at the Paralympics, swimmer Cameron Leslie and cyclist Paula Tesoriero.
Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon is made an MNZM.
Drysdale's gong continues a remarkable family legacy _ his grandmother, Tauranga's Joy Owens, was given a Queen's Service Order medal two years ago and his grandfather, the late Sir Bob Owens, a former Mayor of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui and one of New Zealand's leading businessmen, was knighted in 1997.
"I feel slightly bad because my grandfather had to work for 40 years to get his honour, and gran's also done a lot for the community, getting hers a couple of years ago.
"It's something they worked their whole lives for and I've been rowing for about five minutes in comparison.

Hopefully the family won't take it the wrong way."
Drysdale flies back to New Zealand in mid-January via Sydney, where he is athlete support for New Zealand's 160-strong Youth Olympics team, before beginning his buildup to March's national rowing championships on Lake Ruataniwha.
Reflecting on the year, he said it was hard not to think about the Beijing Olympics where, as short-priced favourite for gold, he became violently ill, requiring an intravenous drip 48 hours before his brave row for bronze.
"Beijing's been a pretty dominant recollection in what I'd describe as an up-and-down year, although I guess it was a pleasing year overall.
"There's still lingering disappointment around Beijing, but coming back to New Zealand after the Olympics and the public support I've had, as well as things like this award, takes a bit of the pain away.
"It has also motivated me to do another four years in the single to get the medal I'm after."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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