By Paul Casciato
DORNEY, England (Reuters) - New Zealand single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale and the rest of the Kiwi rowing squad are being cautious with the health risks by insisting on a quarantine order at their first press meeting.
The five-time world champion, along with pairs gold hopefuls Hamish Bond and Eric Murray and other New Zealand rowers invited the press back to their day house about 700 meters from the gates of the Olympic rowing lake at Dorney for a relaxed lunch.
Having won three successive world titles from 2005, Drysdale entered the 2008 Beijing Games as the clear favorite to take the Olympic title but was struck down on the eve of the race with a virus.
At the expansive mock Tudor home amid the terraces, cabana, gardens strewn with bean bags, plastic tables and a buffet next to bottles of hand sanitizer, Drysdale told journalists the quarantine was a sensible part of the risk analysis that has been part of the operations for the last few years.
"You know every year at the world champs there is a stand-down period for new arrivals whether it's family, journalists or whoever they are, so you know it's just something to try and eliminate any risk that we can," he said.
Despite suffering from dehydration, Drysdale jumped out to a lead on the flat calm lake in Beijing before being overhauled in the final meters by the 2004 champion Olaf Tufte of Norway.
A vomiting Drysdale was then taken away for treatment and had to be helped on to the podium to receive his bronze medal.
With that history, Drysdale is unlikely to take chances with germs, but he shook hands nevertheless and said he pays attention to hygiene but was philosophical about striking the right balance between caution and obsession.
"Yeah, (I'm) a little bit more careful but I'm not going to be wearing masks around and not shaking people's hands," he told reporters. "That's just going overboard."
He said a cycling injury from an accident in Germany last month still causes him some pain, but would not make the difference between gold and silver on race day.
"Probably 95 percent of the strokes of the race it doesn't bother me at all, just the odd one," he said.
"It's something as an athlete you learn to deal with pain pretty well and if anything it's a distraction from how much your legs are burning."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)