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Olympic Rowing Champion Mahe Drysdale Back to Defend Title in Rio | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand celebrates winning gold in the men’s rowing Single Sculls final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Pool

Mahe Drysdale, five time world rowing champion and bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics, has returned after a long vacation, fully ready and refreshed to defend his single sculls title in Rio later this year.

Drysdale took 2013 off to “refresh his mind and body” and tick off some things on the bucket list, and obviously has returned with a crushing energy, with the latter looking forward to continue to Tokyo.

He competed in Ironman triathlons, did the Coast-to-Coast multisport event where competitors, run, cycle and kayak the breadth of New Zealand’s South Island, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Drysdale took the year off despite knowing the risks. For instance, his fellow London gold medalist Joseph Sullivan was dropped from the high performance program following a similar vacation he took after the Games; however he felt it was worth it in the end.

“Having that break was fantastic,” Drysdale stated, adding, “I had been rowing for 12 years in the squad and there were a lot of things I wanted to achieve outside of the sport.”

“Without that break I’d be a bit stale now and I’m feeling very refreshed and excited and it gave me that love and passion for the sport again” he said.

Drysdale rejoined the team in 2014 and quickly got back into the flow, winning both of his World Cup events, though he finished second in the world championships behind the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Synek by 0.73 seconds.

Later, he won both World Cup events in 2015 only for Synek to win over him for the world title by 0.34 seconds. However, Drysdale knew that he was on the right path for Rio and keen to demonstrate that at a World Cup event in Lucerne this weekend.

“I was a bit annoyed with myself last year because I didn’t feel like I had raced to my best,” he said. “Knowing that I was only 0.3 second behind has a silver lining; because I knew that I could have been a couple of seconds faster.

“I very much know that I’m on track, but obviously Ondrej is a great competitor and he’s never going to give it to you easily. It just re-affirmed to me that I need to be on my game in Rio.”

On the other hand, Drysdale expressed his content regarding his training times over the New Zealand summer, however, he unintentionally did get caught in the middle of a very public dispute between coach Dick Tonks and Rowing New Zealand late last year, about whether Tonks could do freelance coaching with foreign crews.

Things got serious enough that there were fears both Drysdale and the world champion women’s double scull of Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane would need to change coach or step outside the centralized program altogether.

“It was tough,” Drysdale said. “I guess it was more the fact of not knowing what was going to come out of it.

“As soon as the solution was reached it was a huge relief to the double and myself because we knew where we were going.”