There are family matters to be settled at home for Olympic medallists Mahe Drysdale and his partner in rowing and life, Juliette Haigh.

Drysdale and Haigh will soon return to their 16-acre property near Lake Karapiro to reunite with Oslo the golden retriever, Dasha the flat coat retriever, Nibbles the lamb, eight cows, four chickens and two occasional visitors, the Burmese cats Sahara and Tassie who normally live with his mum.

Then there's the matter of a mantelpiece already groaning under the weight of one Olympic and eight world championship medals between them - with room to be made for two, heavyweight newcomers: Drysdale's highly emotional gold and Haigh's bronze.

"Mahe's Mob" filled up a significant section of real estate at the friends and family bar on Dorney Lake. They wore distinctive black T-shirts with a white kiwi on the front incorporating the word "Mahe". They streamed out of the grandstand to get a glimpse of a gold medal and get a hug, handshake or snap with New Zealand's latest Olympic single sculls champion.


Drysdale resembled a New Zealand version of Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France. He had a flute of champagne in one hand as he worked his way through a queue of 30; all there to witness him cross the line first. Supporters crammed into one corner of the makeshift bar as Drysdale strode back from the boatsheds. His Mum, Robin Owens, led the charge.

"This was more amazing than I ever dreamed," Owens, who admits she knows nothing about rowing, said. "I was fine until the last 300m, then I was a total disaster. I didn't see the end of the race, I didn't see Mahe's face. I just cracked up and cried when I realised he'd won. We had a million hugs going on. It was a relief.

"That was eight years of work with a huge number of challenges. I'm so proud of how he picked himself up every time. Even getting knocked off his bike recently proved a blessing because he had the break out of the boat. When he returned, his back had been better than it was for ages. I admire him for his tenacity. He kept hanging on and he did it."

Drysdale's achievement is phenomenal given his injury and illness CV. He has a degenerative back injury that forces him on to a bike for half his training, he collided with a waterskier on Lake Karapiro in 2005 and he required the services of the local A&E after the Beijing Olympic final.

His original sculling coach Bill Barry, from Tideway Scullers School on the Thames where Drysdale first picked up two oars in late 2004, says those setbacks make him a deserving winner: "He deserves what he's achieved after having his dream taken away in Beijing. Ask anyone to do 240 leg squats and then pull 60kgs in both hands. They'd be exhausted by the first 500m then you have to keep going. That's sculling.

"Maybe I'll take one little toe of credit for what he's done. I have a picture from Mahe on which he wrote what it meant to have me coach him originally. It's nice to have been in the mix for what made this happen, even if I do coach Alan [British bronze medallist Campbell]."

Owens says she has learned to stand well back during competition week: "I just don't go near him on the morning of a race. In fact I only saw him a couple of times during the week. I don't know anything about rowing, I just read about it in the media."

Owens was also thrilled to learn her son had taken his place in New Zealand sporting folklore by matching the Peter Snell/Murray Halberg Rome 1960 feat of two gold medals within an hour. Drysdale achieved the feat with men's pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.


"Really? Oh, I don't know much about that. One thing I do know is so many people around the world support Mahe. I can't believe the number wishing him well. A lot of countries will be sharing this win."

Owens says she might well party with a swag of relatives who are on hand until the end of the Games.

As for Mahe and Haigh, they have made no permanent decisions on their future, although Drysdale is expected to step out next year to try out Ironman and multisport events like Coast-to-Coast.

"I'm just so happy for Mahe," says Haigh, the women's pair bronze medallist. "This experience means a lot to both of us, probably more than the medals themselves. What's happened at this regatta is special."