Skin Deep: Single sculler Robbie Manson has big shoes to fill

Kiwi rower Robbie Manson opens up about embracing his sexuality in the rowing community ...

On falling into rowing:

"I definitely don't think I was destined to be a rower. Mum and dad both rowed, there was a rowing background, but I think that almost put me off. I used to wind mum and dad up, saying 'I'm never going to row it's a stupid sport'.

"It's only because my younger brother started that I decided to give it a go. I went to the club and really enjoyed being on water. Part of the motivation to give it a go was I didn't want him getting fitter or stronger than I was."

"I think the mental side of things is huge. You have to push yourself so hard, when you are racing you go through so much pain, you have to be able to push yourself to limit."

On his journey as a rower:

"For me, rowing is all on you. The harder you train, the more work you put in, the better the results. I've always tried to take it a little at a time, then when you look back and see how far you've come, its huge.

"I went from never winning a national title to winning an under-23 world title in space of a few months. That was the first time I was, like 'wow, maybe I could get to the Olympics', but felt like too early to entertain that dream. I just wanted to work as hard as I could, but not say too much about it, work quietly away and see what happened.

On what's to come:

"There's two things I haven't achieved now - winning a world champs and getting an Olympic medal. I feel like that's the next goal for me and being in single now, it's an exciting opportunity."

On moving to the single skulls:

"It's a bit more lonely in the single, but I have always liked spending time with myself. I think there will be times when its hard, but the majority of time, I enjoy my own company.

"There is a lot of expectation, but I place a lot of expectation on myself, so I don't think any external expectation could be more than expectation I place on myself. I do have big shoes to fill in the single skulls."

On "coming out":

"I feel like there's two parts to that story, coming out to family, friends and team-mates, which I did two years before, and when I came out publically. Even when I did come out publically, I didn't expect it to get as much attention as it did.

"The main reason for doing it was to help someone else in same situation as I'm in and normalise it, and share my experience, which has been overwhelming positive from rowing. I almost haven't had a bad response from anyone.

"You build it up to be much bigger deal in your own head and I learnt through my journey that it's not as bad as I perceived it to be, and that's part of what I wanted to share with other young athletes.

"There was a time I thought I wouldn't be able to row, if I did come out. I'd built it up to be such a big thing in my head and turned out to be nothing at all."

On Rio:

"I never thought it would be possible to get to Olympics, so just to get there was a huge high.

"We went in with such high expectations and for it to not go to plan at most important of four-year cycle was really hard.

"Tokyo does feel like it's forever away, but from the experience of last eight years, I know it will come around quickly. I want to bring home a gold medal."

- NZ Herald

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