Even without an Olympics gold medal – something he hopes to put right in London in 2012 - Mahé Drysdale is already one of the greatest single scullers in world rowing history.
Though he was born in Melbourne, Australia, Drysdale grew up in Tauranga, attending Tauranga Boys’ College.
By winning the 2011 world title in Bled, Slovenia, Drysdale lifted to five the number of world championship trophies on his mantelpiece.
All this is missing is an Olympic gold medal. He’d have one already, but for an unfortunate occurrence at Beijing in 2008.
Drysdale, world champion in 2005 (despite having broken two vertebrae in a crash with a water skier earlier in the year), 06 and 07, was a raging favourite going into those games, but emerged with only a bronze medal.
He was a popular choice as the New Zealand team captain and flag-bearer at the opening ceremony. He had performance and personality going for him. However, during a long, steamy Beijing evening the opening ceremony seemed interminable.
By the time Drysdale got back to the Olympic village – he did not return to rowing headquarters that evening because it was too far away and it was too late – he had lost a lot of weight through constant sweating and, worse, had picked up a stomach virus.
The single sculls competition began first thing the next morning and Drysdale was far below his best. He tried all week to shake off his illness, but even in the final was far from 100 per cent.
He clawed his way to a bronze medal, then immediately after the final began vomiting and needed medical treatment.
Drysdale was a late starter at rowing – he initially favoured canoe polo, at which he represented New Zealand. He was inspired by Rob Waddell’s heroics at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and began rowing while studying at Auckland University.
After competing in the coxless four at the 2004 Athens Olympics, placing fifth, Drysdale turned to the single sculls with fantastic results.
At 1.98m (6ft 6in), he gets incredible leverage in his stroking, and he has a beautiful, powerful technique. After not winning the gold medal in Beijing, he returned to claim the world title again in 2009 and 2011.
London 2012 was set to be Mahe's games. In spite of a tough build-up involving a ongoing issues with his back and a crash during a cycle training ride, Drysdale put in one of the toughest performances of his life to win gold in the men's single sculls. Collapsing on the pontoon post-race, Drysdale's said his career was now complete.
Drysdale's stunning victory came just 39 minutes after fellow Kiwis Hamish Bond and Eric Murray stole the show with their gold medal winning performance in the men's pair.
New Zealand has a proud tradition in single sculling, right back to the 19th century, when Billy Webb won the world professional title. Dick Arnst and Darcy Hadfield won that crown over the next couple of decades.
More recently, Don Rowlands (in the 1950s), Murray Watkinson (in the 1960s and 70s), Eric Verdonk (an Olympic bronze medallist in 1988), Waddell and current lightweight champion Duncan Grant have been tremendous single scullers.
On the women’s side, Stephanie Foster, Phillippa Baker (a lightweight world champion), Brenda Lawson and current star Emma Twigg have all been outstanding.
Drysdale won the 2006 supreme Halberg award, The Sportsman of the Year award in 2006, 07 and 09, the University of Auckland Young Alumnus of the Year Award in 2007, and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rowing in the New Year Honours 2009.