Mahé Drysdale made his clearest statement yet that he intends to be New Zealand's single sculler this year on the international regatta circuit with an emphatic win in a time nearly six seconds faster than Rob Waddell in today's Premier Single Sculls semi finals at the BankLink New Zealand Rowing Championships.
On a very short programme of rowing with only one Premier event, Drysdale came home looking strong and in control in the first heat in a time of 7 minutes and 3 seconds. He was chased home by a very racey Joseph Sullivan, the young sculler from Picton enjoying a rich vein of form and proving that as the two time Under-23 world champion, he is a force to be reckoned with in the uniquely competitive arena of New Zealand single sculling. He held off Drysdale until the halfway point before the triple world champion made his move. Just a couple of seconds back were Storm Uru, the twice Under-23 lightweight world champion, and current lightweight world champion Duncan Grant.
Grant and current Under-23 world champion in the lightweight single, Graham Oberlin-Brown, failed to make the final in a hugely competitive field, but will race at their ideal weight in the lightweight single event.
In the second heat, Waikato's Rob Waddell, the current title holder, dominated the field and looked to have more base speed than in his heat.
Nathan Cohen - returning to form after injury - was a couple of lengths down. Lightweight Peter Taylor, yet another former lightweight sculling world champion from New Zealand, came home third to take the last place in the final. Waddell's time was almost six seconds slower than Drysdale's in almost identical conditions, though this is more likely to be reflection of differing race strategies rather than out-and-out speed.
And spare a thought for the other scullers out there racing in the morning’s semis. Richard Sharp, Andrew Myers, Daniel Karena and Daniel Murtagh are extremely talented young athletes and in any other rowing country, would almost certainly be at the sharp end of the field in national single sculling. New Zealand however, leads the world in this arena and when two world champions don’t make the final, you know it’s going to be a good one.
Saturday’s big race – scheduled for 1.00pm - is indeed a mouth watering prospect and a virtual repeat of 2008, when Waddell was dominant at Lake Karapiro. Drysdale has pole position this time with the best starting position - likely to be Lane 4 - and we will have a great view of Waddell on one side of him and Cohen and Sullivan lurking in the wings.
Making a call is almost impossible, suffice to say that any of the four could spring a surprise and all have the quality and talent to take the race if anyone hesitates.
BankLink New Zealand Rowing Championships – Premier Single Scull Semi Final 1 (3 to final)
1. Mahe Drysdale 7:03:14
2. Joseph Sullivan 7:06:19
3. Storm Uru 7:09:82
4. Duncan Grant 7:11:02
5. Graham Oberlin-Brown 7:43:05
6. Richard Sharp 7:46:25
BankLink New Zealand Rowing Championships – Premier Single Scull Semi Final 2 (3 to final)
1. Rob Waddell 7:08:50
2. Nathan Cohen 7:12:70
3. Peter Taylor 7:21:79
4. Andrew Myers 7:27:82
5. Daniel Karena 7:35:72
6. Daniel Murtagh 7:40:95
Results up until 12.00pm - http://www.rowingnz.com/Resource.aspx?ID=2881