Farewell to Robbie Manson

New Zealand's record-breaking sculler retires from rowing

2 minute read
Words Benedict Tufnell
Photography Steve McArthur
Published 22.10.20

New Zealand sculler Robbie Manson announced his retirement yesterday, posting on Instagram: “After rowing for the last 15 years, I’ve decided its time for me to take an indefinite break and experience life on the outside.”

Credit Steve McArthur

The decision comes just nine months ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo would have been his third games.


At his last international rowing competition; the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz last summer, Manson managed to qualify the New Zealand single for Tokyo, although not with the result he had hoped. Shortly afterwards Manson made an ominous comment on his instagram that seemed to hint at retirement at the time.

Despite holding the men’s singles world best time of 6:30.74 for 2k, set in Poznan at the 2017 World Rowing Cup II – a record which still stands – success on the biggest stage always eluded Manson. After frustrating 5th place finishes at the 2017 and 2018 World Rowing Championships, he had hoped to turn things around in 2019 at Linz.

But after a bitterly disappointing 7th in Austria, Manson wrote on his Instagram account: “This week certainly didn’t go the way I wanted it to… I left everything out there and I simply wasn’t fast enough to achieve what I wanted to achieve, through no lack of trying. I did however, albeit just, qualify New Zealand a place in the Men’s Single at the Tokyo Olympics next year. Now it is time to take stock and figure out what comes next.”

Credit Steve McArthur

Manson chose to return to squad training for the start of the 2020 season, with many eagerly awaiting the result of a final showdown between him and Mahe Drysdale to decide who would occupy the New Zealand men’s single in Tokyo. However Manson indicated his desire to change course late last year and try for the double in 2020 instead. In early 2020 he was duly selected with Chris Harris to race the double in Tokyo.

Credit Steve McArthur

It was with sadness and surprise then that kiwi rowing fans learned of Manson’s seemingly sudden decision to retire this week. What he will do next is still unclear. Before rowing Manson was a keen competitive horse rider and continues to enjoy riding his horse Baz.

Whatever he chooses to do next, we wish him all the best.