New Zealand could be without a genuine men's single sculling
threat for the first time in nine years on the 2013 world
Mahe Drysdale says Christmas is his deadline for deciding
whether to return for a ninth consecutive season - but it
In September, Drysdale told the Herald on Sunday he
was considering a number of options such as rowing at the
Henley Royal Regatta, doing a Coast-to-Coast or riding some
Tour de France stages ahead of the 100th version of the race
before staying to watch it.
Now 34, Drysdale was New Zealand's oldest gold medallist at
the London Olympics. His biggest fear is committing too early
to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and questioning the decision
18 months in.
After his bronze medal in Beijing he intended to have a year
off but, by December 2008, the love for what he was doing
came back so he decided not to take any further time off.
A New Zealander has been the world or Olympic men's single
sculls champion for nine of the last 15 years through
Drysdale and Rob Waddell. Drysdale's likely absence would
open the way for another New Zealand sculler to have a crack,
with Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan the obvious candidates
as Olympic and two-time world champions in the double sculls.
Neither has jumped at the chance, despite impressive junior
and under-23 single sculls careers. Sullivan won gold two
years in a row at the under-23 world championships in 2007
and 2008, while Cohen took a second in the 2006 edition and
is a two-time junior silver medallist.
"The single is not really for me," Sullivan says. "It was
more of a means to an end at the time. I would rather get
into a crew boat at elite level. Besides, I never saw myself
as a genuine contender to beat Mahe who is the world
benchmark in that discipline.
"I'm keen to go back in the double for Rio if possible, but
next year could be a chance to try something different [the
quad or sweep oar boats are his other rowing options]. I have
no idea how it will unfold."
Cohen is also weighing up how to approach next year. He talks
about the Rowing New Zealand selectors' "clean slate" policy
- meaning all spots in all boats are open to competition -
but it's hard to imagine someone of his pedigree being
omitted for enjoying a post-Olympic gold summer.
Cohen is already back training but will take time off before
Christmas for a spot of boating in the Marlborough Sounds
with his family. It's his first opportunity to do that in
years; normally it clashes with a rowing training camp. He
has also spent five weeks travelling in Kenya,
Uganda, Zambia and South Africa with his partner Jackie. A
highlight included seeing 'The Big Five' game animals - the
lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard and elephant - within an hour
of their first safari drive in Kenya.
"What to do next is probably the hardest question at the
moment," Cohen says. "We've been in this massive bubble,
focusing on one day in four years and you never stop to think
what happens afterwards. The last few months since the Games
have not been normal for us. Six years is a long time to be
in the double [Cohen teamed with Waddell in 2008 and Matthew
Trott in 2007 and 2009].
"I need to work out the best way to be a better athlete now.
There's no point continuing to Rio and blowing out in two
years. However, the selectors will ultimately make that
Cohen has enjoyed touring around the country since he and
Sullivan came from last to first to win their final in one of
New Zealand's most exhilarating Olympic moments.
"I've enjoyed going down south in particular," Cohen says.
"It's been a chance to thank all those supporters in the
clubs and at schools [sources say Cohen received a hero's
welcome at his Invercargill alma mater James Hargest
College]. Those occasions are probably the most enjoyable
I've had since winning. One time at an intermediate school,
all these kids swept around me and the medal was getting
thrown around. They really appreciate trying it on."
Cohen says he regularly watches footage of their final and
finds it hard not to relive every moment.
"Rowing can be a boring sport so we decided to make it a bit
more exciting than, say, the men's pair race [where
team-mates Eric Murray and Hamish Bond triumphed
comfortably]," Cohen chuckles. "I love the bit with about
four strokes to go when I knew we were going to win no matter
- By Andrew Alderson