13 Jul 2018

Manson and Drysdale set for showdown

4:42 pm on 13 July 2018

The New Zealand rowers Robbie Manson and Mahe Drysdale will go head-to-head at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne this weekend with the victor gaining a place in the New Zealand team for the World Championships later this year.

The unique situation came about earlier this year when Olympic champion Drysdale decided he wasn't about to give up his single sculls seat and Rowing New Zealand decided that they'd give him the opportunity to continue at the top level.

Robbie Manson.

Robbie Manson. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Manson appeared to be the natural successor after Drysdale won his second Olympic gold medal at Rio2016 and decided to take some time off.

Manson grabbed the singles sculls boat and last year won two World Cup golds and set a World Best Time.

The 28 year old from Blenheim is confident of holding off the more experienced challenger this weekend.

"Anytime we have lined up against each other I've come out on top with a decent margin so he may have got faster since then, but I feel like I've stepped up a lot so it's all about focussing on what I can do."

But don't discount 39 year old Drysdale, there's still plenty of life in those legs and he wants to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in two years time.

Drysdale, who won the Henley regatta last weekend, says it's been tough coming back after his post Rio break, but he still loves what he does and he still believes he's got what it takes.

"I'm clearly the underdog with the way Robbie's going and he's clearly beaten me all year but It's one race that counts and I've taken a huge amount out of Henley, so I know that I'm at least tracking in the right direction and just got to try and put four good races together this weekend and anything is possible."

Mahe Drysdale.

Mahe Drysdale. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

That's possibly where Drysdale has an edge, he has the experience in the big races and knows how to win.

For Manson he's not making it a 2-man duel and is avoiding any talk of a personal showdown.

"I wanna go out there and win so Mahe's not the only one I've got to race, so to win I've got to focus on what I'm doing and go as fast as I can and not worry about worrying about Mahe or what anyone else is up to it's just staying focussed on what I'm doing and putting my best performance out there."

Both Manson and Drysdale deny the showdown has been a distraction or that there' any chance it'll be detrimental to their performance.

Mahe Drysdale and Robbie Manson.

Mahe Drysdale and Robbie Manson. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

However Manson says it's unlikely that a trial this late in the season will happen again in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics.

"They have given Mahe a lifeline in extending the trial and I don't think and I don't think they'll be that generous in the future and everyone's got to trial at the beginning of the year and I imagine that's the way it will be in the next couple of years."

Drysdale and Manson both say their relationship remains amicable

Drysdale says if he dips out this weekend that won't be the end of the road for him, he still wants to attend his fifth Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

"There'll be another trial next year to decide the seat for the 2019 World Champs and then there'll be another trial in 2020, so this is one opportunity, but in saying that I want that seat back, it's been mine since 2005 and obviously I wasn't there last year and Robbie had a crack at it, so I very much want to be representing New Zealand (at the world championships) in Bulgaria in September.

Mahe Drysdale and his daughter Bronte after his Olympic win.

Mahe Drysdale and his daughter Bronte after his Olympic win. Photo: AFP

There's little doubt that 2-time Olympic champion and 5-time world champion Drysdale is about to hand over the baton to Manson just yet... although this weekend's regatta in Switzerland may give some indication of who's in the box seat.