'I love what I do' - Mahe Drysdale
The Olympic champion had been questioning his desire to commit to the tough training regime required to defend his title, but he believes a six-month sabbatical will give him the mental and physical break he needs - although he admits his initial plan was to take a longer break.
“It was a really tough call to make and I believe I’ve made the right call, and part of that was taking some more time out because it effectively gives me just over a three year build up to the Olympics by the time I come back in July.”
Drysdale admits he had originally considered taking a year off, but after discussions with Rowing New Zealand he decided to return in time to try to defend his world title in South Korea.
The decision to stay in the sport was in part driven by his win at the Billy Webb challenge in Whanganui two weeks ago.
“It was one of those things, enjoying it, being prepared to go to those dark places and having that competitiveness that you actually want to win. If I had rowed down that course going, ‘Oh I don't care he’s in front of me, I’m just going to let him go,’ then it’s probably time to hang up the oars.”
Drysdale's partner, and Olympic bronze medallist Juliette Haigh, has already hung up her oar - meaning life at home will be very different.
“Hopefully that means I come home to a cooked breakfast and meals and [get] looked after very well,” says Drysdale.
But Haigh says that won’t necessarily be the case.
“That’s what he thinks, and I do have a bit more time on my hands but I don't know if I’ll be putting all my energy into the house,” she says.
Over the next couple of months Drysdale will be putting all of his energy into racing his first ironman, and completing the Coast to Coast.
“If I was left for six months of having nothing I guess I’d probably go into limbo, put on a lot of weight, have nothing to get out of bed for every day, so these were challenges that also were beneficial in my overall fitness.”
The 34-year-old says the back injury that’s hampered him for the past two years is feeling good, and while he's well aware of the risk of not defending his title in Rio ultimately his decision came down to a love of the sport.
“I love the Olympics, I love what I do and I feel like I can still achieve more so I thought, ‘well let’s give it another crack’,” he says.
And who can argue with that.