Mahe Drysdale and the HOCR

Olympic Champion and HOCR Favorite Mahe Drysdale

The Love Affair Between the Kiwi Olympic Champion and Boston Continues

By Anthony Gulizia

When one of the top rowers in the world wins an Olympic Gold Medal, they are undoubtedly entitled to an extensive break from the grueling training regimen that consumes his or her agenda.

For Mahé Drysdale, who captured the Gold in the single scull race at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, it was well deserved.

Following last year’s Head of the Charles Regatta, Drysdale enjoyed a 10-month layoff from rowing by visiting his favorite destinations. The 6-foot-6-inch New Zealand native made stops in places like Argentina, Sri Lanka, and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Most importantly, he visited Seychelles, a 115-island country in the Indian Ocean, where his name, Mahé, originates.

“That was a great break. I’ve been very busy, and it’s just been an awesome time,” Drysdale said.

Refreshed and recovered from last summer, Drysdale, 34, is ready to concentrate his efforts on preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

He has been training consistently for three weeks, and on Saturday, will participate in the Championship Singles race at the 49th annual Head of the Charles Regatta – a springboard back into his regimented training schedule.

“I’m not at my best again, it’s pretty early season for us,” said Drysdale, who finished 9th in last year’s race. “But I guess this year [I’m] a little more serious,” he said. “After the Olympics, I didn’t even think about rowing. This year, I’m a little bit better prepared and this is really the start of my Rio preparation.”

Drysdale, who rows out of the West End Rowing Club in New Zealand, arrived in Boston Wednesday, and when he’s not racing this weekend, he plans on enjoying the city. He sheepishly admitted he has a soft spot for clam chowder, a New England staple, and plans on consuming a hearty helping while he’s here.

“I always try to get a few of those in,” joked Drysdale, who’s making his sixth appearance in the Regatta. “[The weekend is] just about catching up with friends and having a good time. The last few years, I brought my bike in and actually got to ride around and see some of the outer suburbs, which is great. It’s a beautiful city.

“I just keep coming back because it really is good fun.”

Part of the fun began Thursday, when Drysdale and fellow New Zealand rower Emma Twigg challenged a red MINI convertible boat. It was an odd sight as two of the top-ranked rowers raced a life-size Mini Cooper convertible driving across the water.

To no surprise, the New Zealanders won the short race.

“Hopefully the weekend is only that hard, just 100 meters,” Drysdale said.

All fun aside, Drysdale, who won the Championship Singles in 2011, still has a goal to accomplish when he’s here, and the Regatta will serve as a benchmark for where his conditioning stands after his long layoff.

As he approaches the 2016 Summer Olympics, he’s crafted a different approach to his conditioning. In Rio, he will be 37 years old, and acknowledged that he’s not getting any younger.

Recently, he’s dedicated a lot of his training time to cycling, a practice that helps keep his back conditioned.

“I do a few races here and there, but try to avoid them for the danger factor,” Drysdale said. “I spend more than half my time on the bike.”

Likewise, Drysdale said he has put a greater focus on the technical aspect of his rowing.

“As I get older, physically, I’m really not going to get much better,” Drysdale said. “You’ve got to look for other ways you can improve and I can see some opportunities there in the technical side.”

For Drysdale, there is not better course to exhibit his skills than at the Regatta – a three-mile course with difficult bends and seven bridges.

“Obviously the bends, they’re not easy to negotiate with the bridges and that sort of thing,” Drysdale said. “That’s a real big challenge. For us, coming at this time of year, we’re just getting back into it and it’s a big regatta and [the American rowers] really target it. That’s hard when you’re not at your physical best.

“But I’d like to get a reasonable result. I’m back now, and every little race is important in that progress forward.”

 

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