Mahe Drysdale deserves NZ flag honours

TONY SMITH IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2012
Mahe Drysdale
MATTHEW APPLEBY/FAIRFAX NZ
Mahe Drysdale

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Mahe Drysdale - the most decorated member of the New Zealand Olympic team's most successful sport - deserves the honour of carrying the Kiwi flag at the London 2012 closing ceremony tomorrow morning (NZ Time).

The role is reserved for one of the most successful athletes at the Olympiad, generally a gold medal winner. It has to be a rower in 2012. New Zealand's awesome oarspeople won three gold medals and two bronzes - almost half of the nation's total medals haul.

The most outstanding New Zealand athletes at the Games were New Zealand men's pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, who ended a remarkable unbeaten four-year sequence with the Olympic gold medal.

They were to rowing what Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was to track and field and Michael Phelps was to swimming - the champions of champions.

The lay-down misere pair were so good, a British rowing writer claimed, only a lurking crocodile could stop them. But the flag-bearer gig usually falls to an individual, not a team. Hence Drysdale would be an obvious choice.

There would be some symmetry in selecting the 33-year-old. Drysdale led New Zealand into the arena at the Beijing Olympics but somewhere between the ceremony and his single sculls semifinal, he contracted a debilitating virus. He was still suffering the effects on the day of the final and went on to win the bronze medal rather than an anticipated gold.

The 2012 Games have been a redemption for the five-time world champion and he and his rowing team-mates deserve to be at the front of the Kiwi queue when International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge closes one of the most successful Games of all time.

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- Fairfax Media

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