Robbie Manson has been hit with a cold reality check as he considers his rowing future.

The New Zealand single sculler has missed out on the medals for the third time at the world rowing championships in Austria, finishing seventh after failing to qualify for the final.

Normally, such a result would inspire talk of disappointment, reflection about what could have been done better, and optimism how there's still plenty of room to improve before the 2020 Olympics.

But for Manson, well, he freely admits that he couldn't have done anything more – an honest and frank yet concerning admission which has left him contemplating all of his options, including a potential surprise switch.

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Manson did manage to qualify the New Zealand single scull boat for Tokyo after winning his B final with a powerful late sprint, but lamented the fact that he hasn't been able to physically match his rivals this season, despite his best efforts.

"I've struggled physically a bit this year, I'm not really sure why. It's not for a lack of trying," Manson told Radio Sport.

"I threw absolutely everything I had at the semifinal, trying to make the final, and there were just three guys that were ridiculously fast – there was nothing I could do. On the day, I did the absolute best that I could in what is such a tough event – there's a lot of new countries and it's so tight. I'm really proud of the way I raced, I left everything out there."

Robbie Manson. Photo / Photosport
Robbie Manson. Photo / Photosport

Previously, Manson's best was good enough to be the best in the world. While he failed to perform at the world championships, he was unbeaten in four World Cup regattas from 2017-2018, and set the world record time in the process.

This year, he hasn't been at the same level at any of the regattas, finishing seventh, fifth and seventh in his three meets.

But, Manson argues that's not because of his performance sliding, but simply his rivals getting far stronger.

"It's not as well as I've gone the past few years but I feel I actually performed much better than I did the past two years, and the event's just so tough at the moment. I'm more pleased and proud with what I've done this year than what I've done last year at the last few world champs.

"If I can get to my best physically, I certainly know I can race and I've got the heart to go and throw it all out there, but you've got to be physically capable of it, and this week I did the best performance I possibly could under the circumstances. I'm not 100 per cent sure of all the answers."

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Manson's single scull predecessor and rival Mahe Drysdale argued that his failure to make the final came as no surprise, and while the pair could meet again in a battle for the single seat in Tokyo, Manson also indicated it might be time to look at other options.

"I need to go back and talk about with a few key people and figure out what to do next.

"I'm not ruling anything out – I don't want to go to the Olympics and make up numbers, I want to have the best chance of winning a medal that I can. I'm open to different options."