18 Dec 2015

Tonks may still coach Drysdale for Brazil

11:12 am on 18 December 2015

Discussions are underway to allow coach Dick Tonks to keep working with Olympic rowing champion Mahe Drysdale in the run up to next year's Olympic Games in Brazil.

Dick Tonks at the 2012 London Olympics.

Tonks in action at the 2012 London Olympics. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The sport's governing body, Rowing New Zealand, has terminated Tonks' contract because he refused to stop coaching a Chinese crew at Lake Karapiro in his spare time.

Tonks revealed the depth of his frustration on Morning Report yesterday.

"New Zealand Rowing has decided now to make a big issue of it in their petty-minded little way.

"They want to get rid of me, they've been trying for ages, they've downgraded me right through, they undermined me, cut me off - it's just been ongoing."

Tonks has guided New Zealand rowers to five Olympic gold medals and Drysdale said it would be a big risk for him to go to Rio de Janiero next year without him.

"It's a big risk to make a change this close to the Olympic Games - it's only eight months away.

"I've worked with Dick for nine of the past 11 years so we know each other very very well. We've got a partnership which has been very successful and is proven to work."

Mahe Drysdale

Mahe Drysdale Photo: PHOTOSPORT

One proposal is for Tonks to remain the gold medallist's coach through to the Rio Olympics.

"Both Dick and Rowing New Zealand are coming round to trying to find a solution which benefits us, which we're really pleased about."

Under such a proposal, Drysdale said, Tonks would coach him and the women's double crew but wouldn't be part of Rowing NZ's coaching structure.

Rowing NZ chief executive Simon Peterson told Morning Report the organisation was working directly with Drysdale and doing everything possible to enable the coaching arrangement to works.

"We want to look after Mahe as our number one priority - he's an Olympic champion, but as most New Zealanders know he's a great ambassador for this country."

Mr Peterson would not be drawn on who would pay Tonks, since he no longer worked for Rowing NZ.

"We asked Dick to continue to coach Mahe and the women's double and not the Chinese crews, and he chose the Chinese crews over our athletes."

Mr Peterson said some overseas rowers did train in New Zealand, and Mr Tonks may have been involved in such outside coaching arrangements in the past, but that was not seen as a conflict of interest as the current situation was.

"Our board is quite clear that - when you've got one of the world's best rowing coaches and you've got your Olympic champion eight months out from the Olympics - this is an important issue for us.

"We wanted to protect our athletes and our programme through that time and we stand by that."

Drysdale hopes the deal will be sorted out before Christmas.

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