A proper sit-down for a stand-up set of rowers

Mahé and Juliette Drysdale have an incredible shared history in rowing.

Who can forget that pivotal moment at the World Championships in 2005 when four New Zealand crews won gold in four successive finals in the space of 45 minutes.

Mahé led the charge in the Men’s Single Sculls that day in Gifu, Japan, followed by Juliette and Nicky Coles in the Women’s Pair, George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle in the Men’s Pair and then the Evers-Swindell twins in the Women’s Double Sculls.

But it was the exploits of our rowers on the Sea Forest Waterway two years ago that really got the Drysdale’s thinking about New Zealand’s unparalleled success in the sport over the last two decades.

“We were just saying, you know, we've had an absolute golden run culminating in our best ever Olympics in Tokyo,” says Mahé. “We thought, ‘We're the most successful rowing nation in the world over the last 20 years and we haven't sat down and said let's celebrate this golden era’.”

So, he and Juliette decided to do something about it.

Something more than a year in the planning.

On November 17, they’re hoping to fill the Sir Don Rowlands Centre at Lake Karāpiro, for the inaugural Jones Family Charitable Trust Legends dinner organised by the New Zealand Rowing Foundation.

It’s a night to share and hear stories and celebrate the achievements of 43 New Zealand Olympic rowing medallists, of which 34 have achieved Olympic success since 2000. It’s also a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate the wider rowing family and their role in New Zealand’s unapparelled success.

Twenty-nine medallists have confirmed they’ll be there, including most of the medal winning Tokyo Men’s and Women’s Eight, along with some other very special guests.

“We wanted to include the 1972 Men's Eight because it's been just over 50 years since they received their medal,” says Juliette. “The opportunity to have our two Olympic gold medal eights together on the stage is something we couldn’t pass up.”

Juliette’s a trustee of the New Zealand Rowing Foundation, which is running the event with support from long-time Rowing NZ supporters Derek and Judy Jones through the Jones Family Charitable Trust and Sean and Bibi Colgan from the Colgan Foundation.

Juliette’s role with the foundation and its Legacy Medal project also helped inspire the idea.

“Mahé and I have been to a lot of legacy medal presentations. The best part of the presentations is when you hear from the athletes. We both love hearing the behind-the-scenes stories, and their experiences representing New Zealand – with some banter thrown in!”

Mahé was also reflecting on his experiences after winning Olympic golds in 2012 and 2016.

“We spent up to six months doing cool stuff, street parades, being able to get out among the people that supported you to say thanks and have it sink in what you'd achieved.”

It had been very different for the Tokyo crews.

“They came back, went into MIQ, got out for a day and then went into lockdown. So, they haven’t really had any opportunity to be celebrated and that’s part of the motivation for the event.”

Mahé and Juliette are hoping things go well beyond the Friday night event.

“There are tables of 10, so you can fit your whole eight around one table and come and relive the glory days of when you were at your best,” says Mahé. “And if you want to go for a row over the weekend, I’m sure that between Rowing New Zealand and the local clubs you can organise a boat and get out there and see if you're as good as you remember.”

So, clear your weekend and book a seat for the night of November 17, with one very small rider from Mahé: “If you don't like rowing, this might not be the night for you.”

The New Zealand Rowing Foundation is raising money for an endowment fund to support the next generation of New Zealand rowers.

They would be very grateful to receive any donations in the form of auction items to ensure that the fundraising element of the night is a success. Please email teresa@rowingnz.kiwi if you can help.

Written by Andy Hay

Article shared with permission from RowingHub - rowinghub.co.nz