Retirement? – Not so Fast

Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand graces the front of the HOCR website.

Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand graces the front of the HOCR website.

By Felippe Rodrigues – Posted on October 22, 2016

Bad news, scullers! Mahé Drysdale and Olaf Tufte may not be done just yet. Together they hold seven Olympic medals, but are still considering a run to Tokyo-2020. Rowing together this Saturday in the double, and then again as part of the Great Eight on Sunday, the long-time rivals and friends are also thinking about the future after Rio-2016 as they enter and near their 40s.

“We are in the box thinking and there are a couple of things that matter,” said Tufte, who won doubles bronze in Rio at the age of 40. “First is the hunger to be better. Then is the family, if they go along. And third is the health. So, if the family, the motivation and the health all say yes, it is a go.”

Drysdale is asking himself much the same thing. “The question is: ‘can I still be as good as I am now or even better at 41?,’” said the two-time Olympic singles champion. “It can be done. I’ve got Olaf here and he is a lit bit of an inspiration I guess. He is probably on the form of his life at 40. Either way, I’m probably going to take some time off to rest”.

With their Tokyo decision to be made on some future day,Tufte and Drysdale take to the Charles River this weekend. While their singles resumes make front-runners for the doubles championship, they have close to no experience together, except for some training sessions over the years. The “good mates” try to keep expectations low.

“Olaf has been a great competitor over the years,” said Drysdale, who will row bow in Saturday’s race. “It is exciting to be able to try to work together and see where we can go. There’s real no pressure there. Yes, we have won a lot of Olympic medals, but never really rowed together, so….”

During training sessions, the steering and pace were the things that needed to be worked out. At first, trusting the New Zealander with driving the boat was a problem for Tufte.

“He knows the course much better than I do, because he has been racing so many times here,” said Tufte. “We have more than enough power, so we have to use for all the 5K race. My job is to keep the rhythm and trust him with the steering,” he says, right before Drysdale started laughing at some of the “disasters” that may have happened on the HOCR’s twisting course.

“Hopefully we got that out of the way,” prays Drysdale. “I know exactly where to go: it is just putting the boat on that position and making sure we are where we have to be. Certainly it will be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it.”

The approach for a good race, both of the athletes say, was to adjust rowing styles and find common ground — or should we say water?

“Jumping in the doubles with different styles is all about being humble,” said Tufte. “Talking about it, adjusting, feeling the boat and being ready to go. We agree quite fast on what’s working and what’s not.”

“I’m trying to adjust to his speed,” said Drysdale, “especially around the catch, where you have less time. In a single, you can really feel the boat, whereas in the double you have to be a lot quicker to the front. So far, so good.”

At age 37 and 40, these much-decorated champions see the HOCR double and he Great Eight as nothing but new opportunities, in a sport where they have stayed young by always looking ahead.

“We enjoy these challenges of doing things we are not used to. You know, racing together, putting guys that usually compete against each other in one boat and trying to work together is a very exciting prospect. It is about having fun and spending time with your great mates.”

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