Drysdale does it again

By Anne-Marie Emerson




The Whanganui River continues to be a happy hunting ground for golden boy Mahe Drysdale, who yesterday won the AON Billy Webb Challenge.

Drysdale, who won Olympic gold in the men's single sculls in London this year, has taken out three of the last four Billy Webb races - but this year's win didn't come easy for him.

Swede Lassi Karonen led for the first half of the 5km race, but he was overhauled by Drysdale and fellow Olympic gold medallist Nathan Cohen. Two other gold medallists, Eric Murray and Joe Sullivan, rounded out the field.

A large crowd lined the riverbank to watch the race and as the leading three hit the choppy waters of the final bend, the tension among the crowd was palpable, nearly everyone falling silent. But as Drysdale rowed under the City Bridge a huge cheer broke out, as he managed to keep Cohen and Karonen at bay to take the race.

Earlier Olympic silver medallist Kim Crow of Australia received a warm welcome from the crowd as she won the women's race.

The Corporate Eights race was won by the AON team. The Wanganui Chronicle team came fifth, and team members Merania Karauria, David Shaw, Gene Toyne and Julie Cvitanovich described the race as "nerve wracking, fun and challenging".

"I think we raced as well as we could," Ms Karauria said.

Many families were on the riverbank at the weekend, enjoying sunshine, warm temperatures and action on and off the water. The Billy Webb Challenge was one of three major events happening on or along the Whanganui River over the weekend.

The Acceleration On Water - Festival of Speed brought super-fast hydroplanes to the river, while the Wanganui Harrier Club's 3 Bridges Marathon drew 150 runners and walkers.

Mike Pearce took his young son to watch the hydroplanes, but he also enjoyed watching the Billy Web Challenge.

"It was great to see Mahe win gold at the Olympics and it's great that we actually get to see him racing here on the Whanganui River.

"We're really looking forward to the hydroplanes this afternoon, though," Mr Pearce said.

Doug and June Jones from Auckland were in Wanganui to visit family and were relaxing on the riverbank ahead of the race.

"It's just so lovely down here by the river," Mrs Jones said.

As they tucked into an ice cream each, Mrs Jones said she'd like to see Murray win the race, while her husband said he'd cheer for Drysdale.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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