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Mahe Drysdale wins gold in epic photo finish

Mahe Drysdale has defended his Olympic title and claimed gold in a stunning performance at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro today.

Kiwi supporters sat anxiously in the crowd as Drysdale got in his groove, erupting when he took the lead at 1500m.

Mahe Drysdale with his daughter Bronte after winning gold in the Men's single sculls
Mahe Drysdale with his daughter Bronte after winning gold in the Men's single sculls Source: 1 NEWS

Leading for the remaining 500m, Croatian Martin Damir snuck up on him for a tense finish but it wasn't enough to dethrone Drysdale.

Drysdale crossed the line at 6:41:34 to claim NZ's second gold of the Olympics.

Damir was credited with the exact same finishing time, with Drysdale winning by half a bow ball.

Drysdale's wife Juliette Haigh and 22-month-old daughter Bronte were among the Kiwis in the crowd, anxiously awaiting a final result.

Mahe Drysdale in single sculls heat
Mahe Drysdale in single sculls heat Source: Associated Press

"I thought he'd won silver and my first thoughts were how proud I was, I had accepted silver knowing he'd gone out and rowed such an amazing race," Haigh told ONE News straight after the race.

"Now knowing he's won gold, I still can't believe it.

"We're going to frame the bow ball!"

Rio is Drysdale's fourth Olympics and third medal after winning the same title in London (2012) and bronze in Beijing (2008).