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After three world championships and an Olympic bronze medal earned under trying circumstances you might have thought Mahe Drysdale was due some respite in 2009.
Far from it.
The strength of men's single sculling remains as strong as ever in New Zealand with trials next week to dictate who will swing on the dual oars this international season.
But Drysdale has gone the right way about retaining the spot he's held since 2005 with a fifth national single sculls title.
He regained the title he lost to Rob Waddell last year, winning by around two-and-a-half boat lengths on Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel, South Canterbury.
Drysdale says the third 500-metre section of the 2000m race was critical.
"I started to get in a good rhythm by the 1000m mark pulling up beside Rob, then I was able to put in the work to give him the slip."
Not bad for someone who says he's been back in the boat four weeks.
Waddell, by contrast, has been back only one week full time after his recent role grinding with Team New Zealand in the America's Cup surrogate sailing series on Waitemata Harbour.
"I have no excuses. I should be going faster but the main thing was to get some tough racing as a stepping-stone for the trials.
"I'm looking forward to a sole focus on the boat this week but there's quite a gap to bridge.
"The time commitments have been tough until now and missing training sessions is not ideal," said Waddell.
While it's a given, Drysdale has shifted the focus straight to the trials and their value.
"I'm just assuming trials count. Rob beat me last year and I came back to win the trial, so I'm prepared to knuckle back down ahead of the first day next Sunday."
Drysdale also credits a minor change to his rigging from Rowing New Zealand head coach Dick Tonks as a help towards the win. "He helped me change the pitch of my blade into the water so it was easier to get out through the stroke."
Both athletes' "prognostics" were excellent for this time of year, especially in cold temperatures in and out of a lake where you row against the current. Drysdale rated at 97 per cent of world-best time while Waddell was at 95 per cent, five seconds back.
Drysdale says that figure and those conditions make it an excellent first competitive hit-out. "I took a risk taking time off but now I'm sure I can be back in gold medal contention by the time I get to the world championships in late August."
The rest of the field were quickly dispatched, bar a dogged effort from Olympic lightweight pair rower Peter Taylor who held on for third, beating under-23 world champion Joseph Sullivan, early leader Nathan Cohen and Storm Uru who came last.