Rowing: Manson single-minded in new quest

By David Leggat

Robbie Manson is in unknown waters in single sculls. Photo / Getty Images
Robbie Manson is in unknown waters in single sculls. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's elite rowing squad will have a distinctly different look this year.

No Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, the sport's most dominant team, unbeaten in eight years in the coxless pair; no Genevieve Behrent, silver medallist in the women's equivalent at last year's Rio Olympics, who is taking a year off; and no Mahe Drysdale, winner of the last two Olympic single sculling golds and among the most dominant figures in the sport in the last decade. He, too, is taking time out.

Robbie Manson is in the single seat this year, having been a quad and double sculling representative at the last two Olympics. Filling the single seat fulfills an ambition for the Hamilton 27-year-old.

"It's a boat I've always enjoyed rowing. The thing I like about the single is it's all on you.

"If things go well it's all you; if it doesn't then there's no one else to blame," Manson said.

Manson admitted he had "pretty much decided" after Rio which direction he wanted to take his career. It was time for a change.

"I came back for the summer and wanted to do something different. That's revived my motivation for the sport."

He won the national title - his 11th red coat and first in the single seat - comfortably at Lake Ruataniwha in February and, under the tutelage of the experienced Noel Donaldson, overseer of Bond and Murray in the last Olympic campaign and former Australian head coach, things are progressing well.

This is Manson's first taste of international class single sculling and he admits in one sense he's not sure what to expect when he reaches the second World Cup regatta in Poznan, Poland in mid-June (New Zealand sat out the opening cup regatta in Belgrade at the start of this month).

"I do have some goals at the back of my mind. I'm being a bit vague about it, but I think I can be competitive.

"The times I'm doing in training show that.

"I'm not going overseas to make up the numbers. If I'm not competitive I'll be very disappointed. For me, the target is always the world championships [in Florida in late September]."

Manson believes the single seat is the most physically demanding discipline in the sport.

Add in that the bar has been set seriously high in New Zealand, after the deeds of 2000 Olympic champion Rob Waddell and Drysdale.

"There's a lot of history in that boat for New Zealand, a lot of expectations too. That's why I want to do it."

Manson has been part of two well-performed crews - the double with Michael Arms in 2013, who combined for three World Cup titles before Arms' career was cut short by a back injury; and with Chris Harris in the double, which showed plenty of promise in the leadup to Rio, but fell at the final hurdle. He was seventh as part of the quad in London in 2012 while Harris and Manson finished fifth in the B final in Rio.

Drysdale, 38, could return next year. Manson has the right attitude, if he wants his old seat back he'll have to fight for it. "As I see it, if he wants to come back he has to beat me and I'd look forward to the challenge if it does come about."

Campaign abroad

• New Zealand crews will contest the next two World Cup regattas - in Poznan, Poland from June 15-18, and in Lucerne from July 7-9, and the Henley Regatta on June 28-July 2.
• They will line up in 10 classes. After Lucerne the squad returns to New Zealand before being re-selected for the world championships in Florida starting on September 24.

- NZ Herald

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