Darryl Fitzgerald welcomed the return of a couple of fellow kayaking Olympians at the Blue Lakes regatta in Rotorua today, although the Poverty Bay paddler was less charitable on the water.
With his brother and usual K2 partner Jarrod sick, Fitzgerald teamed with Christchurch’s Zac Quickenden (Arawa) to win the K2 1000m, heading home Jasper Bats (North Shore) and Scott Bicknell (Bay of Plenty) second and Mana pair Marty McDowell and Kurtis Imrie.
Much interest centred on the team in fourth, however, with former Olympic silver medalist Ben Fouhy combining with Mike Walker in a surprise comeback from retirement.
“It was great to have them in the mix and they were going pretty well for not having done much training together.” FItzgerald said. “It adds to the depth and once they’ve been training together a bit longer, nationals should be a good round two.”
The K2 victory cemented a good day for Fitzgerald, who earlier toppled reigning national champion McDowell in the K1 1000m. Fitzgerald clocked 3.49.19, with McDowell (3.52.21) narrowly heading off Bats by just 0.27secs.
“It’s my first competition of the season and it’s been really good to get a couple of wins under my belt going into selections for next year. I knew Marty would be right in the mix in the K1 and we went head-to-head like we’re normally do but this time I got the better of him.”
Australian kayakers Naomi Flood and Jo Brigden-Jones got the better of a strong women’s K2 field, meanwhile, showing the benefits of three weeks training in Queenstown with New Zealand world champion Lisa Carrington.
Although Carrington won today’s K1 500m in 1min 55.97secs, Flood was just 0.78secs behind in second, with Brigden-Jones a further second back in third. The Australians then combined to head off Carrington and her Eastern Bay teammate in the K2, although the Kiwis got within a second of the world’s seventh-ranked crew.
Flood and Brigden-Jones have also signaled their intention to come back and race in the New Zealand national championships in February, emulating another Australian pair, Lachlan Tame and Ken Wallace, who have been to the last two New Zealand championships.
“Whatever the boys do, it seems to work for them,” Flood said. “We’re so close to each other – I don’t know why we don’t join forces more often and this is definitely the start of something for us leading into the next two years.”
Results from the first day of the Blue Lakes 2 canoe racing regatta at Tikitapu, Rotorua, today:
K1 1000m: Darryl Fitzgerald (Poverty Bay) 3mins 49.19secs 1, Marty McDowell (Mana) 3.52.21 2, Jasper Bats (North Shore) 3.52.48 3.
K2 1000m: Fitzgerald/Zac Quickenden (Arawa) 3.23.94 1, Bats/Scott Bicknell (BOP) 3.25.05 2, Kurtis Imrie/McDowell (Mana) 3.26.69 3, Mike Walker/Ben Fouhy (North Shore) 3.27.41 4.
K1 500m: Lisa Carrington (Eastern Bay) 1.55.97 1, Naomi Flood (Australia) 1.56.75 2, Jo Brigden-Jones 1.57.93 3.
K2 500m: Flood/Brigden-Jones 1.44.67 1, Carrington/Jaimee Lovett (Eastern Bay) 1.45.48 2, Kayla Imrie/Caitlin Ryan (North Shore) 1.46.73 3.