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Golden boy Mahe Drysdale says inexperience made life tough for Kiwi rowers in Rio

Mahe Drysdale says there are two musts for any would-be Olympic rowing champion.

The single sculler won his second Olympic gold after one of the closest finishes in history. Waiting for the result was painful. Source: 1 NEWS

Experience, and a coach as good as Dick Tonks.

New Zealand's failure to hit their medal target of five in Rio can be attributed to its youthful nature, Drysdale says.

By defending his single sculls title - in a dramatic photo-finish - Drysdale closed New Zealand's tally at three medals.

Gold also went to fellow veterans Hamish Bond and Eric Murray while the experienced Rebecca Scown anchored a silver-winning women's pair alongside Genevieve Behrent.

Drysdale says criticism of rowing's performance is justified because of its heavy public funding through High Performance Sport New Zealand.

However, he points out New Zealand were still among the leading nations in Rio, underlining their depth by reaching eight finals.

Expectations were raised by recent world championships success but Drysdale says the Olympics always provide a steep learning curve for newcomers.

"Maybe it's just a little bit of inexperience from some of the younger members," Drysdale told NZ Newswire.

"I'm not laying any blame on them at all but you need to step up for Olympics.

Kiwi fans give our rowing stars a heroic welcome after Drysdale heart-stopper this morning. Source: 1 NEWS

"We see countries here doing well who haven't done well in previous years so we just probably need to go up a level."

Drysdale has a theory that endurance gets built over many years and doesn't leave an athlete's body, putting seasoned rowers at an advantage.

Having claimed the title of New Zealand's oldest Olympic champion, he won't rule out competing as a 41-year-old at his fifth Games in 2020.

Drysdale noted former singles champion Olaf Tufte this week snared a double sculls bronze for Norway at the age of 40.

However, he must consider a young family and will only go to Tokyo if he considers another gold is possible.

He would no doubt call again on renegade coach Tonks, who he credits as the mastermind behind his three Olympic medals.

"Dick's been a massive part of my success over the years," he said.

"He's just won his sixth Olympic gold medal as a coach. That's the greatest coach of all time in New Zealand sporting history so that's pretty incredible."

A five-time Halberg coach of the year, Tonks parted ways with Rowing New Zealand last summer, ending 17 years at the body in acrimonious circumstances.

A deal was brokered to allow Tonks to keep coaching Drysdale and women's double Zoe Stevenson and Eve MacFarlane.

Drysdale steers clear of rowing politics but says Tonks' contribution shouldn't be forgotten.

"He's huge in what he's done for me and what he's done for the programme.

"Without Dick Tonks, we wouldn't have the crews here doing as well as they have. He's the guy who's put it all together."