With her hard-earned Olympic bronze medal round her neck, and her 30th birthday just round the corner, Juliette Haigh knows now is no time to make the big call.
Can she grip it and rip it for four more years? Does she have the drive and desire to go through all that pain again? Tough questions, but for now no answers for this three-time rowing Olympian.
As family and friends call from the sun-baked adjacent Kiss ‘n Cry compound, with some serious celebrating about to kick off, the only decisions the 29-year-old Cambridge-based Aucklander wants to make right now are whether to go bubbles or still.
She and Wanganui’s Rebecca Scown had just won New Zealand’s second medal of the Games when they picked up bronze in a thrilling finish to the women’s pair out at Dorney Lake last night (NZT).
They made a big effort to chase Britain’s eventual gold medalists Helen Glover and Heather Stanning out early, but in the end had to hang on desperately in a frantic finish.
Haigh was rapt with the row they put in, and on reflection was equally content with the colour of the medal round her neck. There are bronzes, and there are bronzes, but this was definitely one of the good 'uns.
"We train every day and think about a gold medal," she reflected.
"If we had rowed the way we did in the heats I would have been disappointed no matter what colour the medal was. But I felt we lifted up a level, rowed how we wanted to row, and I feel really happy about the result."
This was Haigh’s third Games after she partnered Nicky Coles at Athens in 2004 (they finished sixth) and Beijing four years ago (they were fifth), and with that landmark birthday coming up (on Saturday), she understands there are decisions to make.
Plus there’s her fella to consider. Not a bad sportsman himself, and about to scull for gold very, very soon, Mahe Drysdale will also be part of that process.
"I love the sport, and have gotten so much from it," Haigh said.
"It’s been incredible, I’ve done three Olympics and have come away with a medal. I feel like now I need to have some downtime to reassess things.
"I haven’t made a decision but I know that when I do it’ll be a clear one. For now I just want to enjoy this moment."
Fair enough. If you were a betting sort, you might put a fiver on the ‘R’ word coming into play. Not rowing. Retirement.
After Beijing she took a long break, and came back refreshed from it. This time the spell might be permanent. Or not. Reassessment comes when the mind is clear.
Right now it’s still clouded by emoiton and angst. With the Aussies and Americans both flying at them on the line, Haigh said she had no idea whether they had hung on for bronze.
"My feeling across the line was we may have missed out. That’s why I put my head down because I almost didn’t want to look. I felt like I had given every part of myself. I thought ‘I’ve just emptied the tank, there’s nothing else I could have done’ and I took a breath and saw that we’d gotten bronze.
"When we looked at the time sheet and saw how close it was (0.2s) I was really happy to have a bronze medal."
Scown too says she won’t make any calls on her rowing future until she’s far removed from London. She’d had time to hug mum, dad, brother and sister. And there was a whole bunch of thirsty looking sorts with ‘1boat2girls’ T-shirts on looking like they had plans for her.
"It’s great to come here and feel as though you can achieve what you set out to do," she said.
"In terms of the next four years I was only ever focused to this point. I think you just have to let it sink in, take some time out and then the answer will hit you whether you have the drive to continue or want to pursue something else."
Right about now it just feels good to be an Olympic medallist.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the women's pair followed commanding semifinal wins by Drysdale in the single scull and the men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond who both look firmly on track for gold on Friday.
Drysdale, seeking the elusive Olympic gold to go with his five world titles, made short work of his semifinal, outduelling the Swede, Lassi Karonen, and German Marcel Hacker to cruise home in a comfortable time of 7min 18.11s.
His chief rival Ondrej Synek won the other heat, and was a couple of seconds quicker.
The indomitable Kiwi pair of Murray and Bond - still unbeaten for four long years - cruised to an effortless victory in their semifinal and will be the shortest of favourites for gold on Friday.
Murray, in the bow seat, and the smooth-stroking Hamish Bond barely broke a sweat as they opened up a two-length break on the field by the halfway mark and coasted to a win that did nothing to suggest they are under any threat at all come the final.
"We got a couple of lengths or so by the thousand, and from there it was probably just a case of sitting on it and trying not to expend too much and try to keep a bit of powder dry for the final," Bond said.
The men's quad scull finished fourth in their semifinal, to miss out on a spot in the A final. The unlucky women's quad won their B final, a minor consolation after their disastrous repechage mishap.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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