Mahe Drysdale, one of the elder statesmen of the New Zealand team, pushed himself to the limit and beyond to defend his single sculls crown today.

Drysdale, 37, won the gold medal after a pulsating battle with Croat Damir Martin.

The New Zealander bided his time early on, then put in a big surge in the middle stages. He took the lead at 1300m and looked to have matters well in hand as the rowers wound up for the final sprint.

But Martin came on strong over the last 150 metres, catching and edging ahead of Drysdale. With his gold medal slipping away, Drysdale dug even deeper. He threw in a coupe of quick strokes and the pair flashed across the line.

They both recorded the same time – 6min 41.34s – and the photo finish gave the verdict to the New Zealander by about one centimetre, which is cutting it fine when you’ve just raced 2000m.

“That was absolutely amazing,” Drysdale said. “I got the feeling he had just passed me and I chucked in a few short ones in desperation. It wasn’t the way you want to finish, but to come away with the result was fantastic.”

He said it had been an incredible race of twists and turns.

“I thought I might be alright in the middle, but then he came back. I put in a sprint and had to put in everything I had to hold him off.”

The finish brought to mind the equally tense victory by double scullers Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell at Beijing in 2008, also after a photo finish.

Czech Ondrej Synek, Drysdale’s long-time rival, was third.

Drysdale’s gold lifts him to legendary status among New Zealand sportsmen. He has won two Olympic gold medals and a bronze, and five world titles. He also joins the select group of New Zealanders – Peter Snell, Mark Todd, Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald, the Evers-Swindells, Val Adams, and Hamish Bond and Eric Murray - to have successfully defended their Olympic title.

There were three other crews in action on the final day of rowing, but none could bring home a medal.

Emma Twigg finished fourth in the women’s single sculls. She began poorly and was sixth after 500m, with Australian Kimberley Brennan way out in front. Gradually the New Zealander upped her tempo and she fought back to fourth, but could not get among the medals.

Brennan won in 7min 21.54s from American Genevra Stone and China’s Duan Jingli. Twigg was 0.35s behind the third place-getter.

The New Zealand women’s eight also finished fourth. Though they could never get among the top three, but they hung on tenaciously.

The United States won in 6min 01.49s from Great Britain and Romania. New Zealand were fourth in 6min -5.48s, 1.3s behind Romania.

The New Zealand men’s eight finished sixth in their final, which was won impressively by Great Britain from Germany and the Netherlands. Early on New Zealand held third, but they dropped away over the final 800 metres.

New Zealand finished the rowing regatta with two gold medals and a silver.

Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Hamish Bond Emma Twigg Paul MacDonald Peter Snell Mahe Drysdale Eric Murray Valerie Adams Ian Ferguson Caroline Meyer Georgina Earl Mark Todd Rowing
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