Mahe Drysdale has began the final countdown.

After more than two decades as a rower, encompassing four Olympic campaigns, Drysdale has just over a year left on the water, with the 2020 Games in Tokyo to be his swansong.

"This is the last opportunity I am going to have," said Drysdale. "By the time I get to Tokyo it is unrealistic at my age to manage the body for another four years. So you have to make these moments last while you can and I still feel like I am right at the top of my game. It's pretty exciting; I know I've only got a year left and I'm making the most of the final opportunity."

The presence of Drysdale and fellow double Olympic champion Hamish Bond had added a new dimension to the men's eight programme, and dramatically increased the spotlight on the crew, who will compete for the first time at the World Cup event in Poznan, Poland later this month.


It's also given Drysdale a new lease of life.

He made no secret of his desire to race the single sculls during this cycle, and was disappointed to miss out to Robbie Manson, but is now focussed on what is possible in the eight.

"It's a great challenge, working with guys as young as 20 years old," said Drysdale. "Everyone is at very different stages of their life but we are all trying to create the same dream."

His decision to continue after the 2016 Olympics in Rio surprised many.

Mahe Drysdale and the New Zealand elite rowing team training on Lake Karapiro. Photo / Photosport
Mahe Drysdale and the New Zealand elite rowing team training on Lake Karapiro. Photo / Photosport

He'd just won his second consecutive gold medal, at 37-years-old, in the most dramatic way possible, edging a photo finish with Croatia's Damir Martin. With a young family, and a decorated career behind him, surely it was time to put the feet up?

"I certainly thought about it," admitted Drysdale. "It was a process of thinking about all the different options and it just came down to love of the sport. I loved it so much, why wouldn't I do it again? And I didn't want to step away from the sport and then regret it and and want to come back."

Drysdale is adamant next year will be it. He won't do a Steven Redgrave — the British rower famously announced after the 1996 Olympics that if someone saw him near a rowing boat again they could shoot him — only to front up for another campaign.

"This is my last shot," said Drysdale. "I'll get to a point even after Tokyo that if I do want to get in the boat, I can look at myself and say 'look, you are being bloody stupid because you can't do it anymore'."


Drysdale only trains once a day on the water — to manage the load on his back — a regime he has followed for the last eight years or so, but makes up for it with Erg and cycling work.

The 40-year-old has had to put up with the inevitable jibes about his age from the rest of the crew, but they are enjoying his presence.

"He's a bit older obviously and has a lot of experience in what gets success and ideas about what we should do," said Stephen Jones, who was a foundation member of the men's eight in 2014. "He knows if we meet certain goals along the way then it is highly likely we will achieve at the end. He's a driver of making sure we tick off the little things as we go."

After so long as a lone wolf, Drysdale is enjoying the big boat experience.

"It's very different but it's exciting trying to work as a team, and put all the different cogs of a wheel together," said Drysdale. "It's been positive, with a wide range of ages and experience. The main thing is trying to help these boys realise their potential and if we can do that then it is will be a success."