Bucket list ticked, Drysdale back to defend title in Rio

Fri May 27, 2016 3:03am EDT
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By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Olympic rowing champion Mahe Drysdale's year off after his London campaign has not only refreshed him for his tilt at defending his single sculls title in Rio later this year, but also given him pause for thought about continuing until Tokyo.

Drysdale, a five time world champion and bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics, took 2013 off to "refresh his mind and body" and tick off some things on the bucket list.

He competed in Ironman triathlons, did the Coast-to-Coast multisport event where competitors, run, cycle and kayak the breadth of New Zealand's South Island, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Drysdale knew the year off was a risk -- fellow London gold medalist Joseph Sullivan also took time off after the Games and when he returned in 2013 was essentially dropped from the high performance program -- but he felt it was worth it in the end.

"Having that break was fantastic," Drysdale told Reuters in a recent telephone interview. "I had been rowing for 12 years in the squad and there were a lot of things I wanted to achieve outside of the sport.

"Without that break I'd be a bit stale now and I'm feeling very refreshed and excited and it gave me that love and passion for the sport again."

Drysdale returned to the team in 2014 and got back into the swing of things in a hurry, winning both of his World Cup events, though he finished second in the world championships behind the Czech Republic's Ondrej Synek by 0.73 seconds.

He again won both World Cup events in 2015 only for Synek to pip him for the world title by 0.34 seconds. The New Zealander, however, knew he was on the right path for Rio and keen to demonstrate that at a World Cup event in Lucerne this weekend.   Continued...

Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand celebrates winning gold in the men's rowing Single Sculls final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney August 3, 2012.  REUTERS/Pool