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Digital Subscriptions > Row360 > Issue 025 – Nov | Dec 2018 > FINDING HIS WAY


It’s easy to forget that it’s only been in the last two seasons that Robbie Manson has catapulted himself to the forefront of international rowing. Manson may have raced solidly for New Zealand since 2010 – Tokyo will in fact be his third Olympics – but it wasn’t until 2017 in Poland that he caught the world’s attention, setting a blistering new world best time of 06:30.740 in his debut singles race. Proving this was no beginner’s luck, he followed it with a convincing win in Lucerne three weeks later.

That 06:30.740 remains un-challenged, but two years on and a world championship gold has remained frustratingly elusive for the 29-year old Manson. And now there’s a 6ft 7in fly in the ointment too. Double Olympic gold medallist Mahé Drysdale, the teammate he replaced in the single, has made it clear he wants his seat back. Manson isn’t fazed.

A reluctant start

Robbie Manson never considered himself good enough for the single scull. Indeed he isn’t the tallest, broadest or strongest rower in the world; compared to the world’s top flight heavyweight single scullers he is positively diminutive. “It had always been my favourite boat,” he tells me on the phone from training camp in Bulgaria, speaking ahead of the 2018 world championships. “I just always assumed I was not big enough or fast enough to race the single at a world champs. I thought the double was going to be the best place for me.”

Born into a family of rowers, Manson was initially reluctant to row at all. “Mum and Dad both rowed. Dad raced the lightweight single at the world champs in 1985 and they both won a number of national titles. That’s probably why I had no interest in it at all. I always tended to want to do things on my own terms, so I did equestrian.”

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.