Athlete of the Month – September 2017
There’s a new kid on the block in the men’s single sculls and he’s not messing around. In his first season in the single at the elite international level, New Zealander Robbie Manson has won two World Cup golds (Lucerne and Poznan) and set a World Best Time. He earned his place in the boat after New Zealand’s multiple world and Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale, took time out following the Rio Olympic Games.
World Rowing: Should Mahe Drysdale be nervous?
Robbie Manson: I think Mahe knows that he will have to be very fast if he wants to beat me. The Rowing New Zealand policy has always been to pick the fastest person regardless of previous results, it can be brutal but at least it is the same for everyone. I have made it clear that I want to continue in the single and I look forward to the challenge of racing Mahe over the summer. I think I still have more that I can improve, I’ve made some good progress already from being able to focus solely on the single and my own rowing, but it is still my first international season and I believe that I will only get faster in the next few years.
WR: How have you found the switch from racing in the double to the single at the top level?
RM: I have raced the single at a national level almost since I started rowing. I’ve always enjoyed the single, probably more than any other boat, therefore the switch has come quite naturally. I always thought that I was too small to be really competitive in the single internationally, plus Mahe has had that spot secured for the past three Olympic cycles. With Mahe taking a year out it was a good opportunity for me to see how competitive I could be.
WR: Do you plan to stay in the single?
RM: Yes, I have really enjoyed this year so far and want to carry on at least until Tokyo (Olympics). I like that in the single it is all on me, you always know whether you are rowing well or not and there is no one else to blame. Obviously, the New Zealand system is very competitive and I will not only have to beat Mahe but also ones like John Storey and my former doubles partner Chris Harris.
WR: How did you get into rowing?
RM: I started rowing when I was 16, following my younger brother Karl. He started a month or two before me and Mum was coaching him. Mum and Dad had both rowed although I had no desire to until Karl started. We have always been very competitive with each other and I didn’t want him to be fitter or stronger than me. Now he definitely beats me when it comes to strength but I beat him technically. We’ve rowed together several times, at 2014 New Zealand nationals, the 2010 Under-23 World Rowing Championship in 2010 and the 2014 World Rowing Championship.
WR: Did you ever seriously take part in any other sports?
RM: Before I started rowing I did equestrian and it was my dream to go to the Olympics for eventing or jumping. We could barely afford to have horses and it could be frustrating not getting the results I wanted because I didn’t have the horse power. That also influenced my decision to row - I felt as though I was more in control of my outcome when it came to rowing, which I think is also why I prefer the single to a crew boat. I tried a lot of other sports when I was younger like volleyball, hockey, rugby and swimming but I was never really very good so didn’t enjoy them so much.
WR: What has been your biggest achievement?
RM: I think setting a new World Best Time in Poznan (2017 World Rowing Cup) is my biggest achievement. It is something that I didn’t even think that I was capable of. Although, I was very lucky to have perfect conditions otherwise it would not have been possible.
WR: What is your ultimate goal?
RM: I think I am like all rowers when I say to win an Olympic gold medal! That is my dream.
WR: Where is your favourite place to row?
RM: There are a few. Bled and Lucerne because I really like the natural lakes, clean water and the scenery is stunning. I love the atmosphere at Henley and was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to race there this year. I am also quite biased towards Poznan too - especially after this year ;)
WR: What do you do when you’re not rowing?
RM: I’m usually too tired to do much other than eat and sleep. I have done some study although I’m not doing any at the moment.
WR: What do you do for fun?
RM: I love being anywhere near the water, hanging out with friends or going away for the weekend.
Which sports person do you most admire?
RM: I really admire the kiwi pair (Eric Murray and Hamish Bond). I’ve been lucky enough to train alongside them for the past few years. They are both phenomenal athletes and Eric has been a great mentor for me and still is.