Olympians back in competitive mode

By Jared Smith, jared.smith@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

The field may not be in "Olympic" shape as they adjust to the spotlight of being national celebrities, but expect tomorrow's Aeon Billy Webb Challenge to be "fast and furious", says Mahe Drysdale.

The 2010 defending champion admits he and his fellow star-studded line-up of gold medallists Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan have being enjoying the fruits of their four-year labour since returning from London.

Fellow gold medallist Eric Murray will be in shape, but it is different kind of fitness and not one which has rowboats at the forefront of his mind preparing for the boxing ring and league tough man Manu Vatuvei in the Fight for Life next week.

"We haven't done anything even close to this since the Olympics," said Drysdale yesterday.

"It could be anyone's. You can guarantee all of us will be pushing it to the limit to try to win."

Murray agrees, even if he does not spend as much time in the sculls as his Olympic teammates.

"This was a really unique opportunity and we're happy to be involved.

"We wanted to get us all together, only Hamish [Bond] couldn't do it because he has his girlfriend's graduation."

He has not been back in a boat since the Olympics and his boxing work is a completely different kettle of fish.

Two minutes of intensive work over long sessions is not the same as the rowboat Murray has done some extra work on his machine in the garage but not on the water.

Drysdale managed to get out on Wanganui River in "miserable" conditions during the cloudburst yesterday.

That collective Olympic team spirit is still very much alive in their mindsets.

Their comments use the all-encompassing "we" to describe themselves despite the fact they are actually competitors tomorrow rather than brothers in black.

"We're naturally competitive, all of us," said Drysdale.

In fact, what was supposed to be a fun game of claybird shooting on Thursday night between the Olympians turned into "can you top this?"

"None of us want to lose to each other," he said.

While they haven't been training, they have been enjoying their celebrity status and now want to channel it as drawcards to their sport.

In previous years, it would be easy to get rowing fans to attend by simply advertising the best rowers in the country. But four Olympic gold medallists is a promoter's dream.

"That's the great thing about it. It's pretty cool you're on an even field," said Murray.

"It will bring a lot more attention and we hope that's what it's done."

Drysdale's time has been one event to another from running the Tough Kids course to a gala dinner last night.

"The kids are definitely crazy," he said. "It's nice to be able to come here and we're supported by so many people."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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