Gold medalist Mahe Drysdale hints at Rio tilt

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012
Mahe Drysdale
Iain McGregor/Fairfax NZ
BIG DECISION: Gold-medal-winning rower Mahe Drysdale is pondering his future and has yet to decide whether he has the fitness and passion to try for another Olympics.

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It's not the thought of what lies in his future that stops Mahe Drysdale from sleeping comfortably.

Instead, Drysdale said that he's still unable to sleep on his right-hand side due to the shoulder injury that nearly derailed his Olympic gold medal-winning campaign.

But the 33-year-old said with the rest of his body holding up well, his instincts tell him that "four more years" may not just be a George Gregan phrase.

While Drysdale isn't rushing a decision on whether to continue in the sport following the memorable gold in London, he is working through the issues - and the signs look hopeful for a tilt at Rio 2016.

"You're thinking about that all the time - each day you wake up and decide how you feel," Drysdale said.

"I'm not going to make a snap decision. I want to think about how I feel about the prospect of rowing for the next four years, how do I feel about the prospect of retiring?

"It's a four-year commitment to Rio - you don't want to find after two or three months that you don't want to be back.

"But I still feel like I've got more that I can do in rowing - I guess my gut's saying there's more to come."

Drysdale said he was enjoying the spoils of victory, his longest break since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and not having any immediate plans to get back into a boat.

"I might just have a year out and do different things. If that is the case I've got to make sure I stay fit and stay active, because then you keep your options open."

He was, however, working through some internal debates.

"Is my body capable of doing it again? I've had a tough four years. I've got to be confident that my body's going to stand up to another four years of training. Then it comes down to a mental thing - have you got the passion, have you got the desire?"

Drysdale said his troublesome back "was as good as it's ever been", meaning most of his decision came down to desire.

"I feel like I've achieved everything I wanted to in the sport, so if I want to go for another four years it's got to be that that gold medal is just as much of a desire as this one was."

Drysdale said the rest should also help his shoulder heal, given he had little time to rest it after being knocked off his bike while on a training ride in Munich in mid-June.

The champion single sculler said the crash came as a complete surprise and when he realised what happened, fears that he may be in doubt for the Olympics flooded his thoughts.

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"Lying on the ground, immediately I could feel my ribs - they were pretty sore and I was struggling to breathe. I could feel my shoulder was pretty sore.

"My legs were pretty good and didn't feel like anything was broken, but I was concerned about my ribs and my shoulder.

"There was just relief when you know nothing's broken, ‘cos that's going to take 6-8 weeks and I only had six weeks to the Olympics.

"By that night they'd cleared me of any major injury - I had an AC joint as the major problem, perhaps some cracked ribs. I knew then at least I was going to be at the Olympics."

When he got back in the boat after three weeks' break, coach Dick Tonks put Drysdale through a virtual race scenario.

"Dick made me do a 2k piece flat out and that gave me the confidence that I could still row, and even though it hurt it wasn't going to affect the way I raced. From then on I was pretty confident going back into the Olympics I could be where I needed to be.

"I knew from the experience I have got that I could pull it together in a couple of days because it was a technical rather than physical thing."

However, Drysdale then had to overcome a severe case of nerves on the morning of his final that took him completely by surprise.

"Semis usually make me a bit nervous. Once I got through that semifinal I thought ‘thank goodness that's over, now I can relax and just enjoy the Olympics' but it was a very different situation and I've never suffered from nerves that bad."

Drysdale felt it probably came from the awareness of how big the occasion was after "letting one slip in Beijing”.

"It took me half an hour to eat a bowl of cereal. I went and had a wee sleep and then when I woke up I started throwing up."

His day had a happy ending though, allowing him to do things on his return to New Zealand "I haven't had the chance to do anything like in 12 years".

That included skiing last weekend, and a planned trip to watch the All Blacks play in Argentina at the end of September.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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