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Drysdale's shoes too big to fill for Kiwi rowers

Published: 12:08PM Saturday January 26, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Mahe Drysdale's single-sculls seat looks like being unfilled for the year's opening World Cup regatta.

Several of New Zealand's top rowers will be back in action this weekend for their first competitive racing since the London Olympics, when they contest the Cambridge Town Cup regatta at Lake Karapiro.

And while many of the Rowing New Zealand summer squad members are likely to get an outing in the men's single sculls event today and tomorrow, there may not be a suitable replacement for the 2012 Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion, who has elected to take the first part of this year off, before resuming his quest to defend gold at Rio De Janeiro in 2016.

The most likely contenders capable of competing at elite international level in the single are Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan.

However, Rowing NZ selectors may be unwilling to split up the double sculls gold medallists from London for the World Cup regatta to be held at Sydney in March, with a look ahead to the next cup meets in Europe and the world champs in South Korea at the end of the season.

"It's possible we might not take a single sculls boat to Sydney," RNZ high performance manager Alan Cotter said.

Rowing NZ has previously committed to sending a full-strength squad to Sydney for the first World Cup regatta to be held outside of Europe. However, Cotter said the organisation will still want to "stick to a standard" for gaining a place in the team.

Cotter is also wary that with the regatta being held much earlier than the traditional opening World Cup event of the season, several European countries may not send their elite squads.

Cohen and Sullivan will be joined in action at Lake Karapiro by other scullers and sweep oar rowers in the New Zealand summer squad programme, including Michael Arms, Fergus Fauvel, Carl Manson, Robbie Manson, Nathan Flannery and Hayden Cohen.

Many of the women's squad will sit out the regatta, but London bronze medallist Rebecca Scown and women's single-sculls fourth placegetter Rebecca Twigg will make their returns.

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