Mahe Drysdale talks tough on battle to go back to back at Tokyo 2020

Mahe Drysdale is talking tough about his battle with Robbie Manson to represent New Zealand in the single scull at the next Olympics.
Mahe Drysdale is talking tough about his battle with Robbie Manson to represent New Zealand in the single scull at the next Olympics. Photo credit: Getty Images

Two-time Olympic rowing champion Mahe Drysdale won't be giving up his single sculls seat without a fight.

The 39-year-old Cambridge native's going head to head with Blenheim's Robbie Manson, who impressed at World Cup level while Drysdale took a break after the Rio Games.

Manson took his chance with both oars, breaking the world record at the World Cup meet in Poland.

Drysdale will be 41 by the time the next Games roll around in Tokyo - but that's not an issue for the veteran.

"It's going to be tough, Robbie proved this year that on his day he is capable of being world-class," Drysdale told Newshub.

"So there's certainly a challenge there."

"But I know that over a period of 12 years I have been the best sculler in the world, over and over and over."

"I've just got to focus on doing what I need to do and make sure that I get myself in a position that I'm back to my best - then I back myself to get that seat back."

Robbie Manson.
Robbie Manson. Photo credit: Getty Images

Drysdale admits there's a lot of work to do, but he's "very confident" he can prove to the Rowing New Zealand selectors that he's still the man for the single scull.

Though it's not getting any easier.

"That's really the challenge for me. Obviously, as I get on in years and approach 40, it's trying to find different ways of finding that speed because physically you're starting to not be able to do what you could five, six years ago - and not quite recover as well."

He's committed to another Olympic campaign, but this time he'll have to do it without his long-time mentor Dick Tonks - who's switched loyalties to Rowing Canada.

Tonks famously fell out with Rowing NZ before Rio, leading to a part-time deal to coach Drysdale to his second gold medal in Brazil.

"I'll certainly be using some of the mantras that Dick has taught me," the double gold medallist said.

"It's about pushing your limits on a daily basis and never accepting where you're at, you're always looking for more and always trying to improve."

Drysdale thinks Tonks' defection to coach the Canadians' senior men could prove costly, by the time the next Olympics roll around.

Dick Tonks is now with Rowing Canada.
Dick Tonks is now with Rowing Canada. Photo credit: Getty Images

The often-controversial mentor also had double gold medal success with the unbeatable Kiwi Pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, and earlier with the Evers-Swindell twins.

Drysdale's worried about the influence of Tonks in enemy territory.

"It is a little bit sad from New Zealand's point of view that we have lost him... especially for me personally, I won't have that contact with him and be able to just go and chat with him."

He calls it "a scary prospect... Canada have a lot of good rowers and having him involved... they're going to have a very strong programme in the coming year."

Drysdale describes Tonks as a very tough character, with hard work at the core of his system.

"Miles make champions," his former charge said, recalling one of those mantras.

"The key is if you buy into what he says, you can be very successful and I think that's proven in the records that he's had as a coach."

"You can see the success that Rowing New Zealand has had, and that's all based on Dick's programmes."

"That's where there could be some danger... if he can implement that same system in Canada."