Mahe Drysdale isn't used to turning up to the world championships as underdog but he's doing his best to remind his rivals he's not done yet.
Drysdale last year lost the world title he's held since 2005 to Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic on his home course of Lake Karapiro but last night cruised into the semifinals of the world championships in Bled, Slovenia.
With the first three scullers in each quarter-final earning progression, there was little pressure on Drysdale but he took charge of his race from the outset and established a commanding lead early. He maintained a comfortable cushion over his rivals throughout and finished more than two seconds ahead of Lithuania's Mindaugas Griskonis in second.
Drysdale is learning to cope with a chronic back injury that has plagued him for the past 18 months and has scaled back his on-the-water training. It doesn't seem to be effecting his speed and the 32-year-old remains among the favourites for the world title.
The men's single sculls is one of the most competitive fields at the world championships and Drysdale will face stiff challenges from the likes of Great Britain's Alan Campbell and Sweden's Lassi Karonen, who were also winners of their quarter-finals as well as Germany's Marcel Hacker and two-tine Olympic champion Olaf Tufte from Norway.
It will not have gone unnoticed that Synek looked unconvincing in his quarter-final, needing a late surge to finish third ahead of Belgium's Tim Maeyens in fourth, but it would be dangerous to underestimate him.
New Zealand crews were to the fore again last night on Lake Bled and expectations are high they will once again be among the medals later in the regatta.
Julitte Haigh and Rebeccas Scown, the defending champions in the women's pair, were dominant in winning passage to their final but will need to beat an excellent British pair to claim another gold.
Graham Oberlin-Brown and James Lassche qualified for the final after finishing third in their semifinal of the men's lightweight pair - a non-Olympic event - while Storm Uru and Peter Taylor, the 2009 world champions in the lightweight men's double sculls, also qualified for the semifinal after winning their quarter-final ahead of Great Britain.
The men's coxless four of Jade Uru, Ben Hammond, James Dallinger and Chris Harris and lightweight women's double sculls crew of Lucy Strack and Louise Ayling both progressed to the semifinals through repechages last night.
The men's eight, who surprised many by qualifying for the final of last year's event, couldn't repeat the feat after finishing sixth in their semifinal.
The world championships double as Olympic qualifiers, making progression to the final important to virtually ensure a place in London.