Mahe Drysdale preparing for tough semifinal

CRUISING: Mahe Drysdale wins his quarterfinal in the single sculls.
CRUISING: Mahe Drysdale wins his quarterfinal in the single sculls.

Mahe Drysdale says he's ready to race the single sculls semifinal at the Olympic rowing regatta as though the gold medal is on the line.

The 33-year-old New Zealander comfortably won his quarterfinal at Eton Dorney to progress with ease to what he believes will be a hugely competitive couple of semifinals.

"Today is a tricky day and you can't take your eye off the ball," said Drysdale after he set the sixth fastest time of the four quarterfinals.

GOOD RESULT: New Zealand's Julia Edward (left) and Louis Ayling came in second in the repechage of the women's lightweight double sculls.
GOOD RESULT: New Zealand's Julia Edward (left) and Louis Ayling came in second in the repechage of the women's lightweight double sculls.

"But semis day is the important one. The guys that aren't maybe favoured to make it tomorrow will be racing the race of their lives.

"Semis at the Olympics is a horrible place to be. You want to get that one out of the way and once that's done you can relax and enjoy the final. But you've got to get through tomorrow, and it's going to be tough.

"You've got to be ready to race a final I guess and hopefully that's not required, but you've got to be ready for it."

Drysdale, the five-time world champion, has so much riding on this regatta. He needs that Olympic gold to complete a staggering career CV, and of course he has the memories of his Beijing stomach bug nightmare fuelling him this time round.

But Drysdale seems relaxed. He's done the work, he has plenty of energy up his sleeve and, most importantly, he's healthy.

"I'm feeling pretty good physically, and that's the important thing," he said.

"I'm certainly feeling a lot better than I did four years ago at this point."

It was significant that Drysdale finished nearly two seconds clear of Belgian Tim Maeyens who had set a new Olympic best in the heats.

Not too much should be read into a time that was not as fast as rivals Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Alan Campbell of Britain set in winning their quarters.

"You're trying to do as little as you possibly can, and you hope that they know they're beaten and give up," said Drysdale of a race where the Belgian kept him honest.

"Tim is a little fighter and doesn't generally do that.

"It's good to have a bit of a hitout before tomorrow and tomorow I think we're going to see some pretty exciting races."

Drysdale will also be keeping an eye on partner Juliette Haigh who along with Rebecca Scown will be the first Kiwis to row for medals when they line up in the women's pair final.

"It would be great to see them have a good start," he said.

"Obviously they didn't have the best of races in the heats but they showed in Bled last year they can come right when it counts. Hopefully they can step up on the big occasion."

Kiwi Emma Twigg also progressed safely to the semifinals of the women's single sculls, though she had to make do with second place behind Aussie ironwoman Kim Crow in her quarterfinal.

Twigg didn't appear to be pushing too hard to haul in the Aussie, who is rowing two events at these Games, and when they established a big gap early on the third-placed German she appeared content with the runnerup spot.

Meanwhile, it was job done first up by the two New Zealand crews in repechage action.

Both the men's four and the lightweight women's double pof Louise Ayling and Julia Edward made it safely through to Thursday's semifinals, without really having to push too hard.

The four of Tyson Williams, Jade Uru, Sean O'Neill and Chris Harris finished second in their repechage, just over a couple of seconds behind the Serbian four, and afterwards said they felt they produced a better row than yesterday's heat effort.

And Ayling and Edward, who had been in such fine form in the leadup to the Games, also came home second in their repechage, behind the Dutch pair and with plenty up their sleeve at the finish.

Like the four, they felt they had addressed a few technical aspects of their row and said they felt "comfortable" as they tried to conserve a smuch energy as possible.

Fairfax Media