It was almost impossible to sneak through the Olympic rowing village four weeks ago without bumping into a Kiwi. Black singlet-wearing athletes and Rowing New Zealand's support staff littered the temporary compound.
Three weeks on it's an entirely different place. Now only two Kiwis call Royal Holloway home, Waikato's Danny McBride and his coach Norman Charlton, but that's just the way McBride likes it.
After all, the solitary life as a single sculler is one of the reasons he switched from wheelchair basketball to rowing in the first place.
"When Paralympics New Zealand put out the expression of interest in the Xcelerate 2 Xcellence [PNZ's talent identification programme] that's why I ticked the rowing box, it was something I really wanted to do, especially the single sculling.
''Working in the forestry you do spend a lot of time by yourself, when you're felling [trees] for eight hours a day it's just you and the chainsaw. Rowing's not quite as long a training as that, but yeah I like the solitude," McBride explained.
The fact that the rewards are directly contributed to by the athlete is also a big attraction for the father of two.
"It's up to me you know, it was up to me how many trees got put on the ground and now it's up to me how hard I train and I really enjoy it."
The other stark difference to New Zealand's Paralympic rowing campaign is the style in which McBride's injury means he has to race.
When Mahe Drysdale was thundering down Dorney Lake to claim his long awaited gold, his power was coming from his legs. But as McBride is paralysed from the waist down, lugging a chainsaw about the bush for 40 hours a week has come in handy.
"My coach Norm talks about your legs are like a V8 and I think I've got a V2 in my arms," jokes McBride.
But never having rowed before his accident, McBride's not about to let that get in his way. "When you do something over and over, that's all you know and I guess it becomes easier and easier. I guess I'm lucky I've got the build to have done all right.''
Being in London is a dream come true for the 43-year-old forestry worker, and it's the other half of the reason for taking up rowing.
"Getting to the Paralympics was always a goal of mine, right from when I started playing sport [again] and I've been lucky enough to have been to two world champs and here I am at the Paralympics.
''I would have loved to have done it with basketball but I'm so proud to be here with rowing, I just love rowing, it's awesome.''
With no other competitors in McBride's class in New Zealand, it's hard to get a gauge on just how well he will go in London.
Lining up against 11 others is a far cry from racing the clock on Lake Karipiro. However, the 2010 world championship bronze medallist is in high spirits and with the support of his extended family in London, anything can happen.
His first race is on Saturday at 9.10pm NZT.
* McBride's injury was caused by being struck by a falling rotten tree while working in the bush in 1999. He still works in the forestry industry today, but now as a safety officer.
- Fairfax Media
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