Drysdale maintains form at Billy Webb Challenge
A win to Olympic single sculling champion, Mahe Drysdale in the Billy Webb Challenge in Whanganui, New Zealand confirmed that Drysdale still has what it takes to lead the way.
Racing over a 5000m distance on the Whanganui River in the single, Drysdale was up against fellow Olympic gold medallists from New Zealand – Eric Murray, Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen with Lassi Karonen flying in from Sweden to also take up the challenge.
Karonen, who finished fourth in the men’s single at the London Olympics, got into the lead early on but Drysdale was able to push past the Swede around the half-way point with Cohen also able to get ahead of Karonen. Drysdale admitted it was a tough race right through to the end as lack of recent training meant that Drysdale was giving everything just to hold on.
Karonen didn’t have the most comfortable of races either, finding that the energy he used up in leading for the first half meant that he did not have enough energy to be a threat in the second half of the race. Karonen finished third behind Cohen.
This race held extra significance for Drysdale who is still to decide if he will retire from rowing or make his return to defend his 2012 title. Drysdale commented that he hoped this race would help in his decision-making which, he says, will happen before the end of the year.
In the women’s race, double Olympic medallist Kim Crow of Australia made easy work of her New Zealand competition. Crow finished ahead of New Zealand national team members, Fiona Bourke, Sarah Gray and Zoe Stevenson.
Crow rated around 28 – 31 strokes per minute down the course and managed to move further ahead of her competition over the course with Bourke in second and Gray and Stevenson battling it out for third.
Crow’s win earned her the Philippa Baker-Hogan trophy.
Drysdale’s win earned him the Billy Webb Trophy, a trophy honouring Whanganui’s professional single sculler, Billy Webb. Webb raced over 100 years ago and during his heyday attracted crowds of 20,000 or more watching along the Whanganui River. The current trophy was donated by Billy Webb’s decedents with two of Webb’s great, great grandchildren in attendance this year as well as one great grandchild who has recently started rowing.
The Billy Webb Challenge also included a 500m sprint event. This was held two days before the main race. Younger brother of Nathan Cohen, Hayden Cohen was the overall winner of the sprint which consisted of three one-on-one knock-out rounds. Hayden first beat Drysdale and then his brother Nathan before taking on and beating Karonen in the final.
Hayden is the reigning World under-23 champion in the men’s double sculls.