Tokyo Olympics 2020: Pressure mounts for Tokyo seats after men's eight failure

Kiwi rower Michael Brake cut a satisfied figure, as he touched back down on New Zealand soil, with a world champs silver tucked away in his carry-on luggage.

Brake and partner Tom Murray bounced back from the disappointment of last year's competition in Bulgaria, where they failed to medal, to clinch a podium finish in the hallowed NZ pair boat.

"It's given us a lot of confidence in our process," Brake told Newshub. "Last year, we had injuries and disruptions.

"I think we managed to complete maybe 60 percent of the prescribed training and this year we're up around 95 percent."

But Brake will have little time to savour his achievement, as the pressure for seats on the boat they've qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics immediately mounts.

The failure of the men's eight means that crew will likely be disbanded, with elite talent like Mahe Drysdale and Hamish Bond looking for new routes to Japan.

New Zealand has five men's boats already qualified - single sculls, pair and doubles.

Drysdale has already indicated he's eager to get back into his preferred single sculls seat, where he is reigning Olympic champion. 

For Bond, that may well see a return to the men's pair format, where he tasted unrivalled world championships and Olympic success alongside Eric Murray. He occupied Brake's seat at Rio three years ago. 

"It's a little bit stressful," said Brake, of the looming selection pressure.

"We've got to wait to know what the plan is. There are still chances for them to qualify their boat, so fingers crossed we go ahead with that.

"Ultimately, if there ends up being a whole lot of scrapping for two seats, it's only going to make the boat better."

Rowing NZ performance general manager Judith Hamilton insists they'll fill the Olympic  boats with the best possible talent available, with minimal regard for this year's configuration.

"The eights are something that's really dear to Kiwis' hearts," Hamilton told Newshub. "But we've got to have a really hard look and target our medal potential boats."

Brake is taking a philosophical approach to the dilemma, confident that the rising tide will lift all the boats, so to speak.

"If I end up making the seat through a whole lot of competition, I'm going to be my best self as a result.

"All I can do is train my hardest and hope that's enough."

The 24-year-old is well versed in such scenarios and won't shy away from the battle.

"It's the fun part of sport, really. The people we all go up against are our mates. 

"It's ruthless in that way, but at the same time, everyone knows that we're all here for the same purpose. It's not personal, we're here to compete for seats."