New Zealand rowing may struggle to defend one of its Olympic titles in Tokyo next year, after single sculler Robbie Manson bombed out of the world championships in Austria.
Manson finished fourth in his semi-final at Linz on Friday night (NZ time), failing to progress to the 'A' final and missing out on an automatic Olympic spot.
Instead, he will contest a 'B' consolation final this weekend, needing to finish in the top three to qualify the boat for Tokyo.
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The result is bound to rekindle the rivalry between Manson and reigning Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale, 40, who dominated the event internationally for more than a decade - culminating in 2016 gold at Rio - before he was unseated by his younger NZ teammate.
Manson, 29, has shown flashes of brilliance over the past couple of years, including a world record of 6m 30.74s in Poland two years ago, but hasn't replicated that form in major championships.
If Manson falls short in the 'B' final, New Zealand would face a last-ditch chance to qualify the solo boat before Tokyo and this predicament raises doubts over Manson's ability to achieve that, let alone medal at the Olympics.
Meanwhile, Drysdale has switched his attention to the eight, which need a top-five finish in their final on Monday to qualify.
Earlier this year, the veteran indicated he had still not totally given up on defending his Olympic single sculls title, if the eight fell short.
The national rowing programme may now consider turning back to him to resurrect those medal hopes.
Meanwhile, several other NZ boats were celebrating, after sealing their spots at Tokyo by advancing to world championship finals.
The lightweight women's double of Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle won their semi-final with a new championship record that was less than a second off the standing world mark.
The men's and women's pairs, and the women's double sculls were also fastest through their semis, while women's sculler Emma Twigg was second fastest.
The pairs and lightweight doubles will contest finals on Saturday night.