Veteran Kiwi single-sculler Mahe Drysdale understands now that his real Olympic regatta is only just beginning.
The 33-year-old New Zealander comfortably won his quarterfinal yesterday (NZ time) at Eton Dorney to progress with ease to what he believes will be a hugely competitive couple of semifinals tonight.
He comfortably saw off the challenge of Belgian Tim Maeyens who had set a new Olympic best in the heats but could not match the pace set by Drysdale who looked to have plenty in reserve.
"It was a pretty solid race," added Drysdale. "It's nice to get that one out of the way but there are going to be some pretty tough semis. Everyone seems to have got through so that will make it tough tomorrow."
It's said that the Olympic single sculls doesn't really start till the semifinal stage – where Drysdale finds himself up against defending Olympic champion Olaf Tufte, German Marcel Hacker and slick Swede Lassi Karonen in what should be a cracking race.
"Semis day is the important one," said Drysdale. "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.
"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, is desperate to pick up the Olympic gold so cruelly denied him in Beijing, but seems in a good frame of mind. He says his energy levels are good and, critically, he's healthy.
"I'm certainly a lot better than I was four years ago at this point," he said. Then he showed, when asked about his diet over the next few days, that the looming big moments had not impacted his sense of humour.
"I'll just be eating what everybody else is eating and hopefully if I go down everyone else will too," he grinned.
It could be an emotional fifth day of the regatta for Drysdale who will be followed out by partner Juliette Haigh in the women's pair final. She and Rebecca Scown look to have their work cut out in a race expected to be dominated by Brits Helen Glover and Heather Stanning.
"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."
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 she looked content with the runnerup spot.
- © Fairfax NZ News