New Zealand men’s single sways Waddell’s way
New Zealand Rowing National Championships turned into a men’s single showcase when Mahe Drysdale met Rob Waddell for the fourth time as the duo fight to be selected as the men’s single representative for New Zealand at the Beijing Olympics.
A bad start by Drysdale in cross-tail wind conditions spelt disaster for the reigning World Champion who could do little to catch a flying start by Waddell. Drysdale dropped his rating but then tried to play catch-up. Despite then taking it up to a higher rating than Waddell – 33 strokes per minute through the body of the race – Drysdale had let Waddell take control and could do nothing to dent Waddell’s commanding lead.
“The only way I can describe the actual race from the first stroke was a shocker,” said Drysdale after the race. “The two most frustrating things were; it’s one of the few occasions I have had an important race that I have not stepped up and raced well in and secondly I identified early on I was in trouble but rather than responding positively like I did in Eton I wasn’t able to turn it around during the race and ended up getting thrashed.”
Waddell, remaining serious, even when his young daughter joined him as he got off the water after the race, remarked that it was a good race. “I’ve been doing speed-work in the last two weeks,” said Waddell who was sporting a new extra-short haircut. “I’m looking to keep my boat speed improving all the time.” Later, in an interview with Radio New Zealand, Waddell stated his focus was solely on the Olympic men's single spot and he had put no thought into the possibility of rowing in another boat.
Both scullers indicated the importance of the race by only entering this one event at the New Zealand championships. Drysdale commented that usually he races in five or six events, with up to 15 races through the championships week.
Earlier in the week both scullers also took a night away from rowing to appear at the ceremony for the national sports awards. Drysdale had been nominated for Sportsman of the Year and Waddell was nominated for Team of the Year for his role as part of yachting’s America’s Cup Team New Zealand. Drysdale won Sportsman of the Year.
This race was not part of the selection process for New Zealand’s Olympic team. Those selected for trials will return to Lake Karapiro on 29 February for a week of trials. The decision on who will represent New Zealand in the men’s single will come down to a best of three process. Although both scullers have firmly stated that the single is their goal, it is likely whoever misses out will then be selected for a team boat. The team will be announced on 7 March.