Sullivan committed to Rio

Joseph Sullivan arrives with his partner Holly Ross at the 2013 Halberg Awards at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Joseph Sullivan arrives with his partner Holly Ross at the 2013 Halberg Awards at Vector Arena in Auckland.

Joseph Sullivan will always give it his very best shot when he's competing, but the Olympic double scull rowing champion is going through a challenging period.

Fresh from successfully completing his latest sporting challenge, the one-day Coast to Coast multisport race, the Picton dynamo had little time to celebrate his achievement.

Two days later he was at Lake Rotoiti training with the Central Region RPC squad for the New Zealand championships starting at Lake Ruataniwha, near Twizel, tomorrow.

Arguably New Zealand's most successful-ever rower with six successive world titles under his belt, including two elite crowns and an Olympic gold, getting his head mentally around and committing to another four years of hard, grinding training and racing in a pressure-cooker environment isn't something that just automatically clicked into place.

Having virtually lived, breathed and eaten rowing for more than six years, sacrificing virtually everything else in his life, he has enjoyed the break post-Olympics.

A month back into training, Sullivan admitted it had been difficult getting back into the training grind.

"It has been to the point where you have kind of done everything you have wanted to achieve and you kind of have to sit down and decide if you want to do it all again and risk not winning or how much you want it.

"It has been a difficult time trying to figure out what I want to do. Committing another four years of your life. You lose your social life. You lose the ability to do things in the weekends. It takes a lot, but at the end of the day when you win a medal it does become worth it so hopefully I can get into that mindset again."

The good news is Sullivan has committed to Rio in 2016 but, as he said, nothing is a given in New Zealand rowing because you have to keep performing to hold your place. Even Olympic golds don't mean much to the selectors if you are not performing. "It's a matter of seeing if the mind and body can last. It's definitely tougher mentally."

Sullivan, like his Olympic double scull team-mate Nathan Cohen, isn't up to full noise yet form-wise heading into the nationals, but it's an event the Picton Rowing Club life member enjoys.

"Especially down in Twizel. It's always good to get down there and enjoy it. It's pretty cut-throat at the moment. Everything's getting more and more competitive and if you are not doing so well you are going to get dropped."

Defending two national titles should be all the motivation Sullivan needs this week to row well. He's shooting for back-to-back titles with Robbie Manson in the double and he's also defending the quadruple scull title with Robbie's younger brother Karl Manson, Steve Cottle and Joe Wright.

He's delighted two of his former Queen Charlotte College and Picton crew-mates with whom he's won several national crowns, are back competing, the Gaudin brothers, Ryan and Keiran.

"Pretty cool seeing them back. I was out on the water with them last week in the coach boat poking a bit of fun at them and they are coming on strongly."

Marlborough will be strongly represented in the nationals by the Central RPC, Wairau, Blenheim and Picton crews. Marlborough Express reporter John Alexander will be at Lake Ruataniwha covering the action.

The Marlborough Express