Mahe Drysdale sees silver lining in second place
Mahe Drysdale is getting rare pleasure from being beaten.
The defending Olympic men's single scull gold medallist has had to settle for silver in his three finals appearances at Lake Karapiro this summer, but Drysdale is only seeing positives from his defeats by Hamish Bond.
Bond made it three on the trot in a compelling final at the North Island club champs at Lake Karapiro on Sunday, coming from behind to pip Drysdale by 0.48 seconds in a stunning time of six minutes 39.97 seconds.
Drysdale admitted while losing was never pleasant, the duels with Bond have helped him reach a new high in early-season racing form that augurs tremendously well for his upcoming international campaign.
"I have a very privileged situation here in New Zealand," Drysdale said.
"There's not a single sculler in the world that's getting the sort of level of competition at this time of year.
"It raises the bar a lot faster. That time puts me at the best that I've ever been at this time of year."
The 2012 London Olympics gold medallist had a forgettable 2013. After an extended break, he returned to chase a sixth world championship gold but a lack of preparation and a training accident on his bike that broke a rib resulted in the 35-year-old's quarterfinal elimination at Chungju last September.
Over six months out from this year's world champs in Amsterdam, Drysdale is delighted with his form.
"I don't even feel like I'm at my best yet and I'm already going really fast," he said.
"There's another step up that I can take - the challenge now for the next few months is to turn that speed that I've got now into more speed over the next few months."
"I'm actually surprised at how good I am - I'm ahead of where I thought I might be at this time of year. Bondy's obviously showing that he's in really good form as well, and that's why he keeps beating me.
"You never like to lose, but you've got to look at the big picture."
Drysdale is likely to get a fourth shot at beating Bond - a fellow gold-medal winner in London and half of the unbeaten Kiwi men's pair with Eric Murray that has won the past four world championship titles - in the men's single scull at the New Zealand champs at Lake Karapiro next week.
"I would've liked to win, but every single race I'm getting closer," Drysdale said of last Sunday's clash.
"The last two races I've actually controlled and it's been frustrating more than anything that I've allowed him to come through in the end. That's not something that usually happens but is good for me long-term.
"It's very similar to the way Ondrej Synek or Alan Campbell races - where I get in front and control the race, and usually I can hold on, but Bondy's been able to pull out the sprint and get through me. That's a good thing preparation-wise for later on in the season."
Drysdale said his goal is to be going as fast as I can in August - "not in March".
"I've got quite a lot of upside to get and that's really exciting.
"To row 6m 40s at home - I've done that only a couple of times throughout my career, and certainly not at this time of year.
"The last time I was going this quick at this time of year was 2008 in the trials against Rob Waddell."
Drysdale will contest the second and third World Cup regattas in France and Switzerland in June and July respectively before the world champs from August 24-31.
He and the New Zealand team will be based in Europe from June, with two training camps established in Bled, Slovenia, and Hazewinkel, Belgium, before competing in Amsterdam.
Drysdale is highly familiar with the course for this year's world champs, having regularly competed at the Holland Beker regatta "pretty much every year for the past eight to 10 years".
That means he knows the ins and outs of a course that can disadvantage outside lanes when windy.
"That means in the preliminary races it will be more important that you win those and give yourself the best opportunity."