WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale is contemplating rowing for another country — possibly Fiji — on the World Cup circuit this year as he aims for a third successive gold medal in the discipline in Tokyo.
Drysdale has missed out on the single scull seat for the Aug. 25-Sept. 1 World Championships in Austria to Robbie Manson and has asked that Rowing New Zealand send both scullers to compete in the class on the World Cup circuit beforehand.
Countries can have multiple entries in each boat category at World Cup events but if RNZ just enter Manson, Drysdale said he would consider representing another country on the circuit.
“There’s nothing stopping me going and joining a club in Fiji and getting the Fijian Rowing Federation to okay my entry for the World Cups ... that’s just the way the World Cups work,” Drysdale told Radio New Zealand on Friday.
“They are open to any athlete that’s a member for a club in that country.
“It’s certainly something that I don’t want to do but is something that I’d have to look at if it all turns to custard.”
Drysdale, 40, took time off after he defended his Olympic title in Rio and has struggled to usurp Manson since he returned to the national squad in late 2017.
With countries restricted to one entry in each class at the World Championships, Drysdale rowed in the quadruple sculls last year in Bulgaria.
He felt racing in the quad had hampered him challenging Manson this year, however, and wanted to focus solely on the single as he prepared for Tokyo, hence his request to have two entries on the World Cup circuit.
“I’m very hopeful that we can work together and it can be a ‘win-win’ for everyone,” Drysdale added.
“But if I still have to do it the hard way, which is outside the program, then I am prepared to do that if that’s what it takes to win a gold medal in Tokyo.”
Drysdale, who was born in Melbourne, wanted to be clear that temporarily racing for another country was simply a means to an end, not an abandonment of New Zealand.
“You do what it takes ... I don’t see it for example as saying ‘I’m going to row for Australia’ and actually changing your allegiance completely,” he said.
“That’s a whole different level and that’s somewhere I would draw the line at.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney