2 Sep 2023

Olympic eights champion Tom Mackintosh sets his sights on single sculls

8:13 am on 2 September 2023
New Zealand rower Tom Mackintosh

New Zealand rower Tom Mackintosh Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Why not go from the biggest boat to the smallest boat... that was the thinking of rower Tom Mackintosh as he made a return to the sport.

In 2021 Mackintosh was one of the youngest members of the New Zealand men's eight that scored a stunning victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

After the Tokyo Olympics he transitioned into the men's pair and recorded a sixth place finish at the world champs in 2022.

Not long after that he decided to have time away from the sport and work for an investment company, however after six months he felt he needed to give rowing another go.

"While I was there I came to the realisation that the time line on your athletic career is limited and you only really do it when you're young so I thought why not come back to the sport and give it one last hit out for Paris."

He returned to the elite squad this winter, won the single sculls trial and over the next week will represent New Zealand at the world championships in Serbia.

"It's quite a unique transition, not a lot of athletes go from the men's eight to the single sculls so (I thought) why not give it a go.

"There are a few nuances to my technique that the technical sculling coaches would say there are a few red flags, but for me I'm just looking to see how I can move the boat as fast as possible.

Mackintosh has made a good start, he finished third in the class at a World Cup regatta in Switzerland in July.

"It was a who's who of men's single sculling (in Lucerne) with Olympic and world champions in the final and I faired okay in that."

The 26 year old has been in the fortunate position to be able to call upon some of the best singles scullers in the world, including two New Zealanders, to help him get up to speed.

He's spoken to two-time Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale and world record holder Robbie Manson along with Norway's former Olympic champion Olef Tufte.

"I got a bit of insight from them but really it's up to himself to work things out."

Mackintosh had always been competitive in the single scull at the domestic level, but it wasn't until this year that he thought he'd put it to the test internationally.

He says he's taken a lot of inspiration from his Tokyo Olympic experience.

"Anything can happen and if you just knuckle down and have a good process, have a good team around you and apply yourself you can achieve things that might seem very unattainable when you set out on the journey.

Gold medalists New Zealand's Thomas Mackintosh, Hamish Bond, Tom Murray, Michael Brake, Daniel Williamson, Phillip Wilson, Shaun Kirkham, Matt Macdonald and coxswain Sam Bosworth  on the podium following the men's eight final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Tom Mackintosh was a member of the gold medal winning New Zealand eight at the Tokyo Olympics Photo: AFP or licensors

Mahe Drysdale ruled the single for ten years but since then New Zealand rowing hasn't found a permanent replacement for the boat with Robbie Manson taking the lead for a few years, while Jordan Parry was in the seat at the last Olympics.

Mackintosh would like to be in that seat for a while and has his sights set on next year's Paris Olympics.

But first he needs a good result at the world championships, finishing in the top nine will guarantee New Zealand an Olympic berth.

He was happy with his third in Switzerland in July and appreciates everyone has moved on since then.

"The pace will be hot and it'll be very competitive but that's what I'm here for to test myself against some of the best athletes in the world."

The New Zealand squad has remained in Europe since the World Cup regatta in Switzerland in July and have spent the last couple of weeks training in Belgium.

New Zealand has 32 rowers competing across 12 classes at the world champs which run from 3-10 September in Belgrade.