The New Zealand women’s K4 kayaking team have added a large dollop of icing to Lisa Carrington’s cake after a dream day at the canoe racing world championships in Milan.
A few short hours after Carrington collected her first K1 500m world title and qualified fastest for tonight’s K1 200m final, the K4 also booked a spot in the A final and in doing so, qualified a boat for next year’s Olympics.
Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie finished third in their semifinal after leading for much of the race but that was enough to confirm a top-10 ranking.
“I guess there’s a pretty high likelihood we’ll go to Rio now, which is a bit of a dream come true,” a jubilant Fisher said. “It’s been a pretty long year and there’s been a lot of suffering together. It’s been a year of hurting but it’s all really paying off now.”
Great Britain and Germany overhauled the Kiwis in the last 50m, clocking 1min 33.635secs and 1:33.706 respectively, but the New Zealand crew were only 0.308secs behind.
Having only been together for around nine months, Fisher also paid tribute to new national women’s coach Rene Olsen, who helped them win the world cup round in Portugal and has vastly improved their strength and fitness.
Carrington, meanwhile, was all class in her K1 500m final, which confirmed her status as one of the greatest female paddlers of all time.
She put daylight in between her black boat and her rivals on a choppy morning session in Milan, pulling away over the last 100m to win in 1:49.398, 1.727secs clear of rising Hungarian Anna Kárász, with Yu Zhou (China) a surprise third.
“I had an idea I was in the lead but I couldn’t back off it at any stage,” the 26-year-old said. “It was a tough race and I had to be really prepared to give it everything and do what I could because the competition was so strong. I couldn’t leave anything up to chance. I’m just really pleased to get the K1 500m done and now I can refocus on the 200m.”
Kárász, who posted the fastest semifinal time a day earlier, stuck with Carrington for the first half of the race, trailing by 0.650secs at the 250m mark but had no answer when the Kiwi powered home over the final stages. Carrington raised a finger to the heavens and allowed herself a smile as she crossed the line.
The win completes a seamless 500m progression for the New Zealander, who finished third in 2013 and second last year, and she became just the second non-European to win the 500m title, after Canada’s Caroline Brunet from 1997-99.
Brunet was also the last women to hold both titles in the same year, although Carrington’s form in the shorter distance has been peerless and she’ll be aiming for a fourth consecutive 200m title in tonight’s 200m final after qualifying fastest in the semifinals.
She recorded a time of 39.925secs, with Spain’s Teresa Portela second-quickest in 40.154 and Poland’s Marta Walczykiewicz, runner-up to Carrington for the last three years, third-fastest.
Carrington admits the chance to compete at the top in both events is helping keep her competitive fires burning.
“It’s all about keeping the challenge and trying to get better and better every year and every day. It’s allowed me to become a better paddler and, as I get older, I seem to get fitter and stronger and work on more things.”
Meanwhile, the men’s K2 of Zac Franich and Darryl Fitzgerald finished seventh in their 1000m C final.