New Zealand rowing greats Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale will have some difficult decisions to make after the pair missed out on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics at the Rowing World Championships this morning.
The duo were part of the New Zealand eight which needed to make the top five in their final in Austria to seal a spot at Tokyo next July. However, they fell .5 of a second short, finishing sixth - and last - in the final which was won by the German crew.
There is a potential lifeline for the eight, with the last-chance qualification regatta in Lucerne in May offering two final qualification spots, with seven boats to compete in Tokyo.
However, Rowing New Zealand have indicated they wouldn't send boats to Switzerland unless there were extenuating circumstances, and by the time that regatta comes around, Bond and Drysdale may have already opted to take a different path at this summer's national trials.
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One potentially alluring option could be the singles sculls seat currently occupied by Robbie Manson. Drysdale, New Zealand's greatest single sculler, failed to beat out Manson previously, but may be motivated to have another shot, while Bond's skillset has always made him a potential strong contender for the single seat.
Manson ensured that New Zealand qualified a boat for the Olympics last night, coming from last at the halfway stage and fourth with 500 metres to go to unleash a powerful sprint to win his B final. However, the fact that he was in the B final to begin with – and his failure to finish higher than fifth in his three world championship appearances – may open up his seat for contenders.
Drysdale will be 41 by the Olympics, and it would be surprising for him to be able to overturn his recent returns when going up against Manson. However, Bond could loom as another potential rival, depending on Rowing NZ's decision on whether to send the eight to Lucerne.
Speaking to the Herald on Sunday this weekend before the final, Bond seemed relaxed about his future in the eight.
"I have put less pressure on myself and I am realistic," said Bond. "We can do well but I'm not getting too caught up in it.
"This is something that I wanted to do and try to achieve, but it was in some ways a bonus opportunity. If it comes off, that's great. I guess if it doesn't, there is not so much riding on it as there used to be."