Mahe Drysdale fixed on long-term goal Rio
The Olympic champion is cautious about what he can achieve this year, reports Ian Anderson.
Mahe Drysdale is happy to carry the underdog tag for another year.
But no more than that.
The defending Olympic single sculls champion will head to Europe shortly with the Rowing New Zealand team to contest two World Cup regattas and the world championships.
After being a surprise elimination at the quarterfinal stage of last year's world champs in South Korea, when a lack of preparation combined with injuries limited his effectiveness, Drysdale wants to be far more competitive this year.
And the 35-year-old plans to keep getting better after that.
"The goal has always been Rio - that's where I've been aiming," Drysdale said of seeking a second Olympic gold in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
"I always work backwards from that big goal, so that puts 15 for challenging for that gold medal again, and this year I'd like to be in the medals.
"That'd be a really good result for me.
"But the main thing is to come out of the world champs knowing I'm competitive - that I don't have a 15 second gap to close to gold - that's a big ask.
"But if you're within three to five seconds, you're definitely in the ballgame again."
Asked if he wasn't selling himself a little short on what he may achieve in Amsterdam in August, Drysdale laughed.
"Well, it's possible. That'd be great, but I know that the other guys haven't been sitting on their arses for the last two years waiting for me to come back.
"The standard goes up and you've got to try and match that.
"I'm really in an unknown position, because I haven't raced guys like Ondrej Synek since the London Olympics.
"I'm in fairly good form having raced here, but it's not until that first World Cup in Aiguebelette that we'll go toe to toe and find out where we stand."
Drysdale is also likely to come up against 38-year-old Norwegian friend and rival Olaf Tufte, who won single sculls gold at the 2004 and 2008 Games.
Tufte missed out on making the final in London and took an extended break but returns to the top level at this week's European champs.
"I've had a few chats with him and he seems to be going pretty well," Drysdale said.
"He's got a pretty big point to prove.
"He was pretty disappointed with his Olympic campaign and it'll be interesting to see how he goes."
Drysdale was beaten in three single scull finals in regattas at Lake Karapiro by fellow Olympic gold medallist Hamish Bond over summer, which dented the ego but also showed he was in good form as his rivals produced outstanding times.
Since then, on the back of a heavy training schedule, Drysdale admitted he had struggled to maintain that form.
"That was really good. I was going really well then . . . I haven't quite repeated that.
"We've done a lot more training and I haven't been able to find that speed again, and have got to find again in the next few weeks.
"It's been a pretty tough few months but things are looking positive.
"It's taken that long until I can start to feel I can handle the training again; not be absolutely smashed on a Sunday so all I can do is get out of bed, walk to the couch and lie there for the day."
Drysdale has also avoided any injuries.
"I've had a few niggles, stiffness in the back - but that's pretty normal for anyone that's training hard.
"But there's not been a session that I've missed through injury."
To cap off his year, Drysdale is due to become a father for the first time, with wife and former fellow Olympic medallist Juliette due to give birth in October.