Hungover but happy, world champion single sculler Mahe Drysdale is already peering through the haze towards Beijing and the big goal of matching his rowing mentor Rob Waddell.

Drysdale and his team-mates celebrated long into the night after New Zealand's unprecedented four gold medals in 45 magic minutes at the world championships in Gifu, central Japan, on Saturday.

After Drysdale began the gold rush, women's pair Nicky Coles and Juliette Haigh followed suit before men's pair Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater, and the Evers-Swindell twins, Caroline and Georgina, completed the haul.

Drysdale's was perhaps the best story of one of New Zealand sport's most memorable days.

The Mt Maunganui rower recalled how he was inspired to take up single sculling by Waddell's 2000 Olympic gold medal, before cheating serious injury five months ago when struck by a wayward water skier during training.

"He's the reason I got back into rowing," he said of Waddell. "Watching him win in 2000 . . . I was taking a year out, and it convinced me that maybe I should have another go at it.

"He's been a huge influence."

While Drysdale was ecstatic to beat Norway's Olympic gold medallist Olaf Tufte, he said the ultimate prize was three years away.

"The Olympics is the pinnacle of rowing. Unless you're going to go for the Olympics I don't see much point in rowing just for the world champs ... That's now where I'm focusing."

He's going the right way about it.

Two key factors have helped him - Waddell's coach, Dick Tonks, and the copying of the successful Waddell blueprint which took him to world championship and Olympic success.

"He basically has plotted the path for me, I've got all his training details with Dick and it's just a good gauge for me."

The Tonks mantra of taking the lead early and grinding the opponent into your wake worked perfectly on Saturday, with a confident Drysdale saying he had Tufte covered before the halfway mark.

"After the first 500m I felt like I'd won it. That was the whole way it went, it was an incredible experience."

Rowing New Zealand chief executive Craig Ross hailed the team's best world championships performance, beating their two golds at Duisburg, Germany, in 1983.

But his warmest words were for Drysdale.

"He's got the physiology to be a great oarsman and a great sculler. He's got long arms and long legs, and he's got an incredible ticker," Ross said.

"He's in the Rob Waddell mould. It took Rob three years in a single sculler to get where he was, and it took Mahe just one year."

It so nearly didn't happen for Drysdale in Gifu, after a peaceful training session with Tonks on Lake Karapiro was violently ended five months ago. Drysdale was hit by the water skier and airlifted to hospital, where he could not move for three days and barely regained the feeling in his fingers and toes.

"I hate to really think about it, but I got lucky really.

"He hit me in the spot which is probably the strongest - the middle of the spine - and that took the brunt of it."

Two cracked vertebrae were the extent of his injuries.

Drysdale and the New Zealand team arrive in Auckland this morning.

Ross gleefully noted that the last country to win four world championship golds was East Germany in 1987.

"Four successive national anthems - it was just an unbelievable sight," Ross said.

"To have the New Zealand flag raised four times ... very moving, very emotional, and just great for our sport."

- NZPA