Mahe Drysdale this week revealed he will postpone his retirement, in a bid to go to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. But as revealed to Alex Chapman, the decision was difficult, and there may be another twist in the tale.
It's rare you get much emotion out of Mahe Drysdale. There are the famous photos, knackered and ill after the 2008 Olympics, and there's the delight he shows when winning a race, but the two-time Olympic gold medalist is measured. And yet, he's willing to speak about how hard the last few months have been for him, as he's battled the decision to delay his retirement.
"It scared me a little bit," he tells the Herald. "I got to a place where I was prepared to walk away and I've never been in that spot before. So it was quite strange just not having any motivation to train. I was really having to force myself to go out each day and do something."
In April, the 41-year-old penned a blog admitting to lacking motivation to continue, after this year's Olympics were postponed due to Covid-19.
"It got so bad that I went out for a 2.5-hour cycle and after 15 minutes I turned around to return home as I just couldn't be bothered," he wrote.
Upon reflection, Drysdale has shed more light on how tough it was. "Mentally, rowing-wise, I was in a really bad spot. And I've never experienced anything like that before," he says.
"But overall, my mental health was pretty good, because the family side of things and just having that time is something I haven't had in years. Just being able to do schooling with the kids and play with them all day was great. That did also mean though that some of my sessions didn't start until five or six at night because I would procrastinate and just really didn't want to train."
That saw him spending more time with his wife, Juliette, an ex-rower herself, and their three kids.
"I just really embraced that simple life and just being with the family. That made life a lot easier because I felt very fortunate to be in this position. I was able to make a decision myself.
"It got to a point where I no longer needed the sport. And it gave me some freedom. And now that I'm back, it's almost better than it was before. I feel like there's no pressure, I am prepared to walk away. If I get two months down the track and hate what I'm doing and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, then I can just walk away. It's scary, but it's nice. It shows I'm doing it because I love it."
Drysdale held off making a rash decision.
"I purposely didn't make a decision until we got back on the water because I knew that was what I had to do. And as soon as I got back on the water, it became pretty clear that I still had the passion, I still loved it, and then I had a few weeks of some pretty tough sessions just to make sure that I was willing to put my body through what I had to."
While it resulted in stress and uncertainty, Drysdale's now somewhat grateful for the postponement.
"I'm now starting to see the positives in a year's delay. I've always spoken about how I was really under the pump time-wise, and that pressure has now been taken away and let me go back to basics and hopefully that means I can be even better in Toyko."
That resulted in falling back in love with the sport which has brought him so much pain and glory.
"As soon as I got back rowing, it was 'oh, I do still like this, I do still want to do this.' But it wasn't at that moment that I thought I was going to Tokyo. I just wanted to check that I could still push myself and make sure it wasn't that I wanted to do it, I had to make sure I still had the drive, that I was prepared to put myself through what I'm going to, in order to make it."
And just like that, the determination returns to Drysdale's voice.
"I don't want to be in Tokyo to make up the numbers."