Making the podium amid a world-class field of kayakers is one thing – but Zack Mutton was more stoked with finally beating his dad.
The 16-year-old Okere Falls paddler took third-place in Sunday’s Kaituna Timetrial, headed only by Olympians Vavra Hradilek (Czech Republic) and top Kiwi Mike Dawson.
It continued a rich vein of mighty Mutton performances in the event but also represented a changing of the guard… for now at least.
Zack’s father Kenny went in as defending champion, having won the 2015 edition and the 2012 title, while also picking up podium spots in 2013 and 2014.
But the 45-year-old former freestyle guru and kayak designer could ‘only’ clock 6mins 37.52secs for the forearm-burning classic, good enough for seventh overall and 5secs adrift of his jubilant eldest son.
“It’s been a goal for a while but to finally get him was a pretty good feeling,” Zack Mutton said. “He hasn’t been training very much and has been looking after my little brother but I’m sure this will fire him up to train more.”
Mutton Snr knew this day was coming and greeted the news with a wry smile on the finish line. His boy has had a rich diet of top-level coaching, not only of the paternal kind but also from Dawson and Hradilek, for each of the last seven summers as they trained at Okere Falls.
The international canoe slalom stars have taken the younger Mutton under their wings and he’s got a big future, within sight of his 17th birthday in March. He finished 19th in the semifinals of the ICF junior canoe slalom world championships in Poland in July, despite having another three years in the age-group, crediting Dawson and Hradilek with much of that improvement.
“I definitely feel like I’m getting better but I’ve still got a long way to go. They teach me so much – how to race, how to train, technique and even how to chill out.”
Dad has an immediate shot at revenge, however – the Kaituna race doubled as qualifying for this week’s Whitewater XL in Auckland, with the top-32 making it straight through to Sunday’s Boatercross finals at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park.