9 Mar 2019

Sports call: Drysdale deserves crack at Olympic hat-trick

9:43 am on 9 March 2019

It would be wrong of Rowing New Zealand to deny two-time Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale a crack at an Olympic hat-trick.

Plain and simple, Drysdale's overriding goal is to row for New Zealand in the single scull at the Tokyo Olympics and he's prepared to go to extraordinary lengths via Fiji to make that happen.

Robbie Manson has twice beaten Drysdale recently - and convincingly too.

New Zealand rower Robbie Manson.

Robbie Manson has usurped Mahe Drysdale at the country's number one single sculler. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Firstly at the national rowing champs, and also in a trial to determine who would fill New Zealand's berth in the single scull at the world championships in Austria later this year.

There's no denying Manson deserves his shot at the world champs.

But what Drysdale is asking for is a crack at two World Cup regattas prior to that.

New Zealand can enter more than one crew in World Cup events - unlike the world champs where each nation is limited to one entrant.

If he can't make the podium at those events, he's prepared to walk away from the single scull and join Hamish Bond in the eight.

After his success at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Drysdale took a year off from the sport and Manson usurped him.

He returned in 2018 but Manson got the better of him and has been in front since.

Drysdale moved to the quad last year but came to rue that decision.

This time time around he wants to keep rowing in the single scull so he can get back to his best.

Surely after more than 10 years at the top of the sport, winning three Olympic medals - two of them gold - and five world championship crowns, Rowing New Zealand owe him that?

Mahe Drysdale

Mahe Drysdale Photo: Photosport

Rowing's high performance is cutthroat and many believe Drysdale at 40 is past his prime.

It's time for for him to step aside and allow Manson to take over his mantle.

But simply stepping aside is not in Drysdale's nature.

Think back to Beijing in 2008 when Drysdale came down with food poisoning only a couple of days before his Olympic final.

He has little memory of the final stages of that race - passing out after the finish line and having to be physically assisted onto the podium to receive his bronze medal.

Driven and obsessed? Absolutely - and to a level that many of us simply can't understand.

Competing in a boat where it's only you means when things go wrong, there's only one person to blame.

But that's what it takes to succeed and it's what has kept Drysdale at the top for over a decade.

It's also why he's prepared to row under a flag of convenience for Fiji should RNZ not approve his bid to race in the World Cup regattas.

What he's asking for is two more chances to prove himself.

Maybe he is past his best. Maybe not. But let's find out for sure.

Drysdale's one tough bugger and it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of him winning an Olympic hat-trick - even if it comes through sheer bloody mindedness... and a circuitous route through Fiji.