Waipukurau School children had a surprise visit from double Olympic gold medallist Mahe Drysdale yesterday, who was in town at the invite of the school to speak at a fundraiser last night.

Earlier in the day it had been confirmed that he was taking a year's break, but he told the children he had one more race coming up in Wanganui in December against Croatian Damir Martin who he beat in a photo finish to take the gold at this year's Olympic Games in Rio.

"I am just deciding now whether to go to Tokyo but I do want to keep rowing, I love it," he said in answer to a barrage of questions ranging from "do you get nervous when you are racing?" to "do you get carsick?"

He told them that he was about their age, 8 years old, while watching the Olympic Games on TV that he first began dreaming of being an Olympian himself one day.


"Through school I tried lots of sports but wasn't good enough. It was when I started rowing at University that I discovered I was good at rowing boats backwards."

He also discussed his rigorous training schedule at Karapiro of six days a week for 11 months of the year, comprising two to three sessions every day.

With the hard work came a lot of perks though, including world travel, he guessed he had probably been to about 30 countries, and the rewards of winning.

His favourite win was in Rio, he said.

"I enjoyed that more than most - I had won in London so the pressure was off and I just enjoyed it."

Asked what his favourite food was, he said his mother's lasagne was good, his favourite vegetable was broccoli, but probably overall his favourite food was ice-cream, which prompted an enthusiastic reaction.

It was also revealed that it was his birthday the next day, turning 38, so his visit was rounded off with the school singing Happy Birthday to him, before some of the children got to hold his gold medal.

Today, he will be a guest at an open day at Pettigrew Green Arena in Napier, The Future in Motion.

Starting at 1pm the event is open to all ages and people will get the chance to hear him talk about his road to success, and offer sporting and training tips, as well as plenty of opportunity to view his medals and grab his autograph.