Two-time Olympic champion Mahé Drysdale announces retirement in emotional farewell 

After 19 years at the top of his game, Mahé Drysdale has announced that he will be retiring from rowing ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

By Courtney Hill
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

New Zealand rower, Mahé Drysdale, has announced his retirement ahead of Tokyo 2020.

The two-time Olympic champion had hoped to make his fourth Olympic Games, but has called time on his career ahead of Friday’s NZ rowing team announcement of which he will not be a part of.

“It has been an absolute privilege to wear the silver fern and represent out country,” he told 1News.

“It’s been amazing, and I hope everyone else has got as much joy out of it as I have.”

The single sculler spot that Drysdale has occupied at the last three Olympics is set to go to 25-year-old Ryan Parry. Robbie Manson initially qualified the boat for Tokyo 2020, but announced a break from rowing after the games were postponed last year.

Drysdale made his Olympic debut at Athens 2004, as part of the coxless four team who finished just outside the medals in fifth place.

The 42-year-old went on to dominate the single scull and despite going into the Beijing Games on the back of three World Championship titles, he finished 2008 with an Olympic bronze after suffering from a gastro bug prior to his race.

In fact Drysdale was so ill, after he crossed the finish, he vomited and then fainted and had to be carried to the medal ceremony.

With yet another two gold medals from the World Championships under his belt, Drysdale went into London 2012 on the top of his game and finally clinched the Olympic gold, then backing that up with gold again at Rio 2016, an incredible photo finish.

Between 2010 and 2015, Drysdale won three World Championship silver medals, and is now calling time on his illustrious career.

Fellow Olympic champions rallied around Drysdale to congratulate him on his retirement, including the Sinkovic brothers, Hamish Bond and Lisa Carrington.

"@sinkovicbrothers: Dear friend, thank you for everything! You were an inspiration and a role model 💪 good luck in the future"

"@hamish_bond: Congrats Mahe. I've been there for most of it and you were a great yardstick for me. Thanks for covering that potentially bogus fare dodge fine we got in Munich circa 2007."

"@liscarrington: Such an inspiration mate, and you always will be."

Though he received such immense support in his decision, Drysdale admitted one of the hardest parts of making it was telling his fellow athletes that he was leaving, which he said caused him to 'shed a lot of tears'.

"It was very emotional, leaving. It's almost like leaving your family behind." he told RNZ.

"It's pretty special. I appreciate everything everyone has done for me over the years because I couldn't have achieved half of the success without them."

Despite being disappointed that his efforts to qualify for Tokyo 2020 did not ultimately pay off, Drysdale says he will “walk away with my head held high,” and pride in all that he has been able to achieve throughout his career as he hangs up the oars.