WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale’s plans to defend his title in Rio are back on track after Rowing New Zealand (RNZ) settled a disagreement with his coach Dick Tonks on Thursday.
Tonks will coach London Olympic champion Drysdale, and last year’s women’s world champion double scull of Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane, until the Rio Games though the 64-year-old coach will remain outside RNZ’s official high performance program.
“Rowing New Zealand has delivered on its promise to find an appropriate solution for Mahe, who has expressed a wish to remain under Dick Tonks through to Rio,” RNZ Chief Executive Simon Peterson said in a statement.
“The Board have agreed to back Mahe’s request to make this possible by having a coach contracted outside of the program.
“While there are still some details for them to work through, both Rowing NZ and the two crews feel we now have a workable solution in place.”
Tonks left the centralised RNZ program last month after a dispute about whether he could do freelance coaching with foreign crews.
The row escalated to an extent that there were fears both boats would need to change coach in the months leading up to Rio or step outside the centralised program altogether.
Drysdale, a five-times world single sculls champion, and Macfarlane and Stevenson are strong contenders to win medals at Rio. New Zealand won three gold and two bronze medals in London, second only to the host nation.
“The Olympics have always been the focus,” said Drysdale.
“We believe that our best chance of success is being part of the Rowing New Zealand program, whilst also being able to be coached by Dick Tonks.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford