A Coast to Coast for the star-gazers

DECISION TIME: Olympic gold medal single sculler Mahe Drysdale has decided to continue on to the Rio Olympics.
DECISION TIME: Olympic gold medal single sculler Mahe Drysdale has decided to continue on to the Rio Olympics.

Kiwi sporting royalty and the British upper crust will be on a level playing field if Mahe Drysdale and socialite Pippa Middleton compete in next year's Coast to Coast.

Drysdale announced yesterday he wants to tick the Kumara to Sumner multisport event off his bucket list this summer while taking a six-month sabbatical from rowing.

Earlier this month Middleton, the younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, indicated her enthusiasm and one can only imagine the fizz coming from promoter Robin Judkins about having two such high-profile entrants in the field.

Olympic gold medallist Drysdale ended speculation over his sporting future by committing through to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But the 34-year-old, who won gold in the single sculls in London, said he came close to ending his career while still on top.

"I guess this was the first time in my life that I seriously, seriously considered it," he said. "After Beijing there were times where I thought maybe I should just quit, but this time it was, I guess, a little bit more real.

"I did actually look at other opportunities, what the other options were, and really weighed them up."

He said that if Rowing New Zealand had forced him to make a decision sooner, he would likely have walked away.

"I think if they had have forced my hand I probably would've quit. If I had to go to training tomorrow, back into full-time, I probably wouldn't be here."

Drysdale made the final decision on Wednesday before announcing it publicly.

He will be back in the boat at Lake Karapiro for trials in July next year.

He credited Rowing New Zealand for allowing him time to consider his options and for granting him a six-month holiday from the sport, saying it helped to make his decision easier.

"In the end rowing was something that . . . I want to be doing more than anything else I can think about.

"I still love the sport, there's no doubt about it. It's a pretty good life that we have - it's tough, it's hard work but it's also very satisfying.

"Being able to represent your country is pretty special and you only get that for a limited time in your life."

He said that after 12 solid years and three consecutive Olympic campaigns he needed some time out.

Over the past four months he's had doubts about his age and whether his body can withstand another four years of intensive training, but it came down to whether he still had the hunger to compete at the top level.

Drysdale's partner, Juliette Haigh, retired from rowing this month after more than 15 years in the sport.

His aim will be to gain boat selection for the 2013 Rowing World Championships being held in Chungju, South Korea in August 2013.

The Press