Rowing: Drysdale out to erase heartache of Beijing

By Dylan Cleaver

Mahe Drysdale is focused on a top result. Photo / Christine Cornege
Mahe Drysdale is focused on a top result. Photo / Christine Cornege

There is an Olympic gold medal-sized hole in Mahe Drysdale's CV that needs filling.

The five-time single scull champion had his name rubber-stamped by the New Zealand Olympic committee yesterday and is now counting down the days until he gets the opportunity to atone for Beijing.

Four years ago Drysdale won bronze, a remarkable result considering he had been sick for the week of the Olympic regatta, but not one he looks back on with any particular fondness.

"I do think back to Beijing and at times it still feels disappointing and it hurts a wee bit," Drysdale said. "There's a lot of motivation and on the bad days I think back to that and use it to try to make sure I don't put myself in a position where that could happen again.

"It reminds me why I love sport and how brutal it can be. It all comes down to one day."

That one day is August 3 and he says the same people who beat him four years ago - Norway's Olaf Tufte and Czech Ondrej Synek - will again be his biggest rivals.

"At least five of the same guys who were there in Beijing will be there again and similar guys will be going for the medals."

One of the keys to success in high-performance sport is being able to visualise winning scenarios without being obsessed by the end result.

It has given rise to one of sport's great cliches, one that Drysdale is happy to repeat.

"You're concentrating on the process . It sounds like a stock-standard answer but it's true. But at the same time it's obvious there's only one result I'm going for.

"We're 147 days away and now I can fully focus on that."

As to how Drysdale will fill in those 147 days, it's pretty simple. He'll have about 147 sessions on the water - including two world cup regattas in Lucerne (May) and Munich (June) - and close to that many sessions on a bike.

Drysdale said they would continue to "load up" their training kilometres until just a couple of weeks before the Olympic regatta's July 28 start.

Fitted around the world cups are numerous inter-squad racing days, where peer and coach pressure ramps up the competitive levels to regatta-like status.

"The men's pair [Hamish Bond and Eric Murray], it's always a big battle with them and it's nice when you finish on top."

Rowing is poised to surpass athletics as New Zealand's most fertile ground for Olympic medals. Athletics has secured 20 medals and will likely pick up one more in London.

Rowing and sailing have 16 each and the former is capable of adding five to that tally on Eton Dorney.

At this stage the selectors have confirmed 11 crew, while the men's eight and lightweight four race at Lucerne in May in a last-chance regatta.

Even if the two remaining boats fail to qualify, the 26 confirmed athletes would make it the largest Olympic rowing squad in New Zealand history. It is a team packed with world champions.

Aside from Drysdale, the men's and women's pair and the men's double sculls will be expected to be at or near the front of their finals.

Lightweight scullers Storm Uru and Peter Taylor won the world championship in 2009 and must be considered a chance.

Emma Twigg is a strong contender in the single scull, while Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer will try to emulate the Evers-Swindell twins' magnificent record in the double sculls.

The women's quad, bronze medallists in 2011, are also well worth a look.

A notable absentee is Carl Meyer. The 2007 world champion in the four and husband of Caroline, formerly Evers-Swindell, pulled out of the recent trials with back problems and was not considered for a place.

In the two boats trying to qualify in May, the lightweight four will be crewed by three-time world lightweight sculling champion Duncan Grant. They need to finish in the top two in Lucerne.

The eight must win their regatta to qualify.

Already qualified

Men's single scull: Mahe Drysdale. Coach - Richard Tonks

Women's single scull: Emma Twigg. Coach - Tonks

Men's pair: Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. Coach - Tonks

Women's quadruple scull: Eve Macfarlane, Fiona Bourke, Louise Trappitt and Sarah Gray. Coach - Tonks

Women's pair: Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown. Coach - John Robinson

Women's lightweight double scull: Julia Edward and Louise Ayling. Coach - Robinson

Men's double scull: Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan. Coach - Calvin Ferguson

Men's lightweight double scull: Peter Taylor and Storm Uru. Coach - Ferguson

Women's Double Scull: Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer. Coach - Gary Hay

Men's quadruple scull: Robbie Manson, Matthew Trott, Michael Arms and John Storey. Coach - Mike Rodger

Men's four: Sean O'Neill, Chris Harris, Jade Uru and Tyson Williams. Coach - Dave Thompson

Boats to race at last-chance qualifying regatta

Men's lightweight four: Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Graham Oberlin-Brown and Duncan Grant. Coach - Thompson

Men's eight: Richard Harrison, Hamish Burson, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Adam Tripp, Ian Seymour, Ben Hammond, Fergus Fauvel, David Eade and cox Ivan Pavich. Coach - Ian Wright.

- NZ Herald

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