Record-breaking numbers and a host of international paddlers will highlight next week’s Canoe Racing New Zealand national championships.
The championships have been moved to Lake Karapiro near Cambridge to cope with the scale of the event, which has attracted nearly 300 kayakers from New Zealand, Australia, Europe and around the Pacific.
Olympic champion Lisa Carrington and world champion Teneale Hatton will be joined in a strong open women’s division by top Australians Naomi Flood and Jo Brigden-Jones, while a number of leading New Zealand men will be trying to further their Olympic ambitions.
CRNZ boss Mark Weatherall said this year was an important one for high performance, although the health of the lower echelons were just as encouraging for the future.
“We’ll have 76 female paddlers under 18 years of age next week, for example – that’s a huge jump from 2011 when we only had 71 females across all agegroups,” Weatherall explained. “Obviously, the international performances of the likes of Lisa and Teneale have played a huge part, although there also seems to be a number of young kids coming through who are just passionate about paddling. They’re the ones we’re hoping to see on international podiums in years to come.”
Total kayaker numbers have been steadily increasing over recent years and the standard of competition has caught the eye of international athletes too.
Flood and Brigden-Jones raced at the Blue Lakes regatta in Rotorua in December after a three-week training camp with Carrington in the South Island and what they experienced there encouraged the Olympic pair, part of the Australian K4 at the London games, to come back for nationals.
Pacific paddlers will also take part next week, with former New Zealand sprint kayaker, whitewater slalom athlete and world champion rafter Anne Cairns selected to paddle for Samoa this year, while Guam, Tahiiti, Palau and the Cook Islands will also be represented.
The three-day national championships start on Friday February 13 and go through until Sunday.