Mason thrilled to team with childhood hero

Ben Mason grew up idolising Robbie Manson.

Now the former Dunedin rower gets to jump in the boat alongside his childhood hero when he makes his elite international debut.

Mason had been selected alongside Manson, who is making his international return after taking a break from the sport in 2020, in the men’s double scull for the World Rowing Cup III regatta next month.

The 21-year-old was "pretty stoked" to be named in the squad heading to Lucerne in Switzerland.

"It’s really cool to be selected for the team," Mason said.

"It’s the first time for me to race at an elite level, so adds an extra level of excitement as well."

Mason, who grew up in Dunedin but has been living in Cambridge for the past year, considered himself fortunate to be sitting alongside Manson, who won gold at the 2017 World Cup with his world-best time of 6min 30.74sec in the men’s single.

"I’d wake up in the middle of the night to watch his races and I always kind of I guess aspired to row like him, which is quite cool.

"Then this year he’s made a comeback and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good season. I think it’s pretty neat that I’m now in the double with someone who I always idolised.

"He’s obviously got the fastest time in the world — when he’s on, he is the best."

Manson mentored Mason coming through the pathway at Otago Boys’ and the pair had stuck up a good relationship since, including training together through the summer.

"I’ve loved learning off him and I get on really well with him now, which is epic," Mason said.

"I’m excited to see what we can do together now that we’ve got, I guess, security in what we’re aiming and training for."

Mason had a standout season last year, winning bronze in the quadruple sculls at the under-23 world championships in Italy.

He won his first red coat at the national rowing championships last year, winning the men’s premier single — following his great-uncle Jim Hill’s consecutive titles from 1958 to 1963 — and the men’s premier double, men’s under-22 double, men’s premier coxless four and the 500m exhibition mixed eight.

He also won bronze in the CM2x at the World Rowing Coastal Championships and Beach Sprint Finals with Brook Robertson last year.

Mason made headlines in 2021 when he completed a 20-day marathon rowing along the Bay of Islands coast, raising more than $32,000 for breast cancer. His mother, Sonia, died of breast cancer in 2007 when he was 6.