Hawke's Bay rower Tom Mackintosh has qualified for a spot at this year's Olympics after a last-gasp qualification race victory in Switzerland.
The Havelock North-born rower will travel to Japan later this year to take part in the delayed 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The games were scheduled to begin in July last year but were postponed due to Covid-19. They are now expected to begin on July 23 this year.
Mackintosh was part of the New Zealand men's eight who finished 1.2 seconds ahead of Romania at the last Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Saturday.
The 24-year-old said the last chance qualification race, known as the "Regatta of Death", is an entirely different beast to most rowing events.
"Regattas are typically jovial and a great atmosphere," he said. "But the Last Chance Olympic Qualification Regatta is quite eerie as it is do or die.
"It's been a very long process but, as athletes, we prepare for any situation."
Mackintosh, who rows in seat seven, said with China and Romania putting everything on the line, it wasn't until the final 700 metres that his crew began to pull away to win by half a length.
"The pace of the race was exceptionally fast, but I knew our fitness would pull through the latter stages," he said.
"For the last few seasons there has always been a question mark, as it wasn't set in stone. To officially have our tick is just fantastic."
The eight was Tom Murray, Hamish Bond, Shaun Kirkham, Michael Brake, Dan Williamson, Phillip Wilson, Mackintosh, Matt MacDonald and cox Sam Bosworth.
Tom's father and former coach, Jock Mackintosh, said the Hawke's Bay Rowing Club has punched well above its weight in terms of success stories, with the Evers-Swindell twins, Emma Twigg, Adam Tripp and Giacomo Thomas having gone on to Olympics.
"There's a newspaper clip on his bedroom wall of Hamish Bond at the Olympics," he said. "His sisters' cut out a picture of Tom and put it alongside Hamish – now that dream has come true."
Mackintosh and the rest of the crew are due to return to New Zealand this week where they will continue training throughout a 14-day stay in managed isolation.
Napier-born single sculler Emma Twigg, who came out of retirement in 2019, has also qualified for her fourth Olympic games.
Mackintosh, the 2021NZ Rower of the Year and finalist of this year's Hawke's Bay Sports Person of the Year, said the trip to Europe has calmed his concerns over Covid.
"Leaving our New Zealand oasis, I was a wee bit anxious with Covid," he said. "But travelling to Switzerland was seamless and we've had the necessary training to mitigate the risk of catching it.
"I have full trust in the organising committee for the Tokyo games to ensure the safety of all stakeholders."
Mackintosh also thanked Hawke's Bay Rowing Club and coaches Doc McDonald and father Jock, who were "paramount" in the formative years of his career.
Ten NZ boats have qualified for the Olympics, with nine crews contesting the games - women's single, women's double, lightweight women's double, women's pair, women's quad, women's eight, men's single, men's double and men's pair.
The official New Zealand Olympic Rowing Team will be announced on June 11.