It all looks positive to champ

Captive audience: Rowing legend Mahe Drysdale  shows off his Olympic gold medal to a group of young Nelson rowers this week.
Captive audience: Rowing legend Mahe Drysdale shows off his Olympic gold medal to a group of young Nelson rowers this week.

Mahe Drysdale believes the future of rowing is secure as he prepares to go to the well one last time.

In discussing the importance of junior programmes for the development of rowing, the five-time world champion rower and single sculls Olympic champion has said the 2016 Rio Olympics will likely be his last stand.

"While we might get a number of the medallists back this time [after London], if I continue on to Rio that is very much likely to be the end of my career," Drysdale said.

His comments came after he had addressed a room full of young rowers at the Nelson Rowing Club yesterday. The enthusiastic youngsters, questioned him on his best times and training regimes before crowding around their hero, clamouring for an autograph.

For a man who was inspired to compete at an elite level by Rob Waddell's gold medal triumph at the Sydney Olympics, Drysdale has easily assumed the mantle of motivation personified.

That was evidenced by the esteem with which the wide-eyed teens held Drysdale, 34, his many speeches and tours around the country since London have certainly helped to track a few more long and lean-limbed teens to elite rowing.

His exploits on the water, not only in London, but in winning the gutsy bronze in Beijing, obviously provide inspiration to those from a distance. Drysdale said the centralised training programme a short distance from Cambridge, gave him a hands-on opportunity to mix it with the next generation.

"You need the next athlete ready to step into that slot once the older athletes move on," said Drysdale. "We all train at Lake Karapiro and all train together, so we are very much involved with those young athletes on a daily basis."

The strength of New Zealand rowing today not only comes from places on the Olympic podium, according to Drysdale, it is found in those young guns waiting in the wings. "Rowing is in great shape at the moment.

"We have just come off five Olympic medals [in London] which is by far the best result we have ever had. We are in a very strong position at the moment, we have been riding a wave that has been improving and improving.

"I think a very good job has been done of cementing what we need to build on that success.

"What we have seen over the years, is we are now competing at an elite level in that junior level. That has been the biggest change for me over the 12 years I have rowed, we never used to have people competing well at the juniors or under-23s.

"That is a huge thing, because that is the future. That is the development of our sport."

The Olympic champion was in town to speak at the Nelson Marlborough Branch of the Institute of Directors annual dinner on Thursday night. He took the opportunity to get to the rowing club, as he does whenever he is in Nelson.

"Nelson rowing over the years has been strong, obviously in school age and younger athletes.

"They definitely punch above their weight."