Young stars Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert led the charge for New Zealand at the opening round of the canoe slalom World Cup in Italy overnight.
Butcher, 21, and 20-year-old Gilbert both progressed through the qualifying rounds to make tonight’s K1 semifinals. It’s just the second time either of them has made a World Cup semifinal, with Alexandra’s Butcher doing it with a slick 92.49sec first round down the heavy Dora Baltea River course in Ivrea to qualify 27th.
“The course here is so awesome – it’s big whitewater so I feel right at home, after coming from paddling on the Kawerau River down in Central Otago,” Butcher said. “It’s good to get a run like that under the belt for the first run of the international season – it felt reasonably smooth and, although there was some time losses in parts of it, it was clean and fast enough to get me through.”
Butcher also credited a recent training block with Kiwi Olympian Luuka Jones and her coach Campbell Walsh in England for helping him get ready for the European season.
Gilbert, meanwhile, was 45th after the first heat – with the top-30 progressing automatically – after picking up three 2sec penalties for touching gates.
He turned things around in the second heat, however, qualifying 8th after a clean run, with the top-10 making it through.
“I was mostly happy with my first run – but there were one or two quite big mistakes that I wanted to fix for the second run,” the Tauranga paddler explained. “The second run was pretty good and I managed to produce a solid clean run which was enough for the semi. Tomorrow I’m going to try keep it clean and smooth, similar to today but it’s really cool to have Finn in the semi as well!”
Olympian Mike Dawson had a day to forget, missing a gate in his first run for a 50sec penalty and picking up two touches in his second run to put him out.
A missed gate also cost Ben Gibb in the C1 division, with his first run blighted by a 50sec penalty. His 18-year-old teammate Patrick Washer was 33rd in his first run, with Gibb 41st, while the pair were 14th and 17th respectively in their second runs to miss the semifinals.
With Jones skipping the first World Cup of the season, missed gates also cost the top New Zealand K1 women in their heats, with Jane Nicholas 39th and Anna Higgens 40th in their first runs, and 15th and 20th in their second runs. Nicholas also finished outside the qualifying spots in the C1 division.
New Zealand kayaker Marty McDowell has taken a big step towards Olympic selection at the Oceania canoe sprint championships in Adelaide today.
The 28-year-old Mana paddler did enough in his K1 1000m heat to qualify a boat for Rio de Janeiro, subject to New Zealand Olympic Committee approval.
He finished second behind Australia’s Daniel Bowker – with Australia already having qualified a K1 1000m spot – while paddlers from the Cook Islands and Guam finished well adrift.
However, it was McDowell’s semifinal performance which was most impressive, clocking a slick 3mins 31.73secs, qualifying for tomorrow’s A final and beating Canada’s former Olympic gold medalist Adam van Kouverdan into third.
“That was a really tough semi and I was stoked to beat Adam, who’s one of the best around,” McDowell said. “Getting through the heat was pretty good because there was so much riding on it and you never want to take a race like that lightly but the semifinal gave me a much better idea of where I was at. Training has been going really well and I couldn’t have asked for a better buildup, so I’m looking forward to the final.”
McDowell’s success made up for Scott Bicknell’s disappointment, with the K1 200m specialist missing out on the Oceania spot in yesterday’s heats. Although Bicknell paddled well and finished third in today’s final, Australian Steve Bird was too strong, cementing the continental qualifier.
All is not lost for Bicknell, however – he teams up with Craig Simpkins tomorrow for a crack at the K2 200m, with Australia having already qualified through the world championships.
Piha teenager Hannah Williams broke through for her first major ironwoman win at a memorable Eastern Regional surf lifesaving championships today.
The 17-year-old won the under-19 title in heavy shorebreak in Mount Maunganui and was convinced by coach Steve Ferguson to forgo a break and try for the open title as well.
“I was on the finish line after the under-19s and Steve said ‘the open women are on the line – do you want to do it?’. I was pretty smashed but there’s always a little bit of energy left, so I thought why not,” Williams said. “Some of my other races were pretty average so I thought the under-19 final was going to be the one… it turned out I had two in me!”
Although the open women’s field was missing Mairangi Bay’s Danielle McKenzie – who nursed an ankle injury through the two-day carnival – and Omanu’s Devon Halligon, Williams still beat home accomplished Mount Maunganui locals Jess Miller and Katie Wilson.
It backed up a great start to the season, after finishing second behind Piha teammate Kirsty Wannan at the Mount Monster endurance race before Christmas.
“I didn’t feel that confident going into it because the under-19 field is pretty strong at the moment but this weekend has definitely given me a boost.”
The ironman title went to Australian-based Omanu star, and reigning national champion, Max Beattie. He headed home his Omanu teammate Ben Cochrane, with Muriwai’s Jake Allen third, after also taking out the board race and surf race finals.
No-one could stop the rampant Mount Maunganui team taking out the club points title, meanwhile, finishing on 178 points after two days, 107 clear of second-placed Mairangi Bay, with Piha third on 62.
It’s a continuation of the club’s recent dominance at national level. Highlights from the weekend included victory in the open men’s taplin, taking out the top three placings in both the under-19 men’s and women’s board race finals and having six-man teams finish first and second in the under-16 taplin.
Across their teams, Mount collected five of the six taplin titles across the three agegroups, finishing second in the open women’s behind Mairangi Bay.
Mairangi Bay had a good day in the boats too, taking first and third in the open men’s long course final, sandwiching second-placed Titahi Bay, with Red Beach winning the open women’s title.
Results from the second day of the Eastern Regional surf lifesaving championships at Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach today.
Open Mens Run-Swim-Run
Ben Gillies (Piha) 1, Jake Allen (Muriwai) 2, Adam Simpson (Mt Maunganui) 3, Nick Ayers (Omanu) 4, George Hunter (Mairangi Bay) 5, Ben Cochrane (Omanu) 6, Shaun Pahina (Midway) 7, Oliver Puddick (Mt Maunganui) 8, Ciaran Ryan (Lyall Bay) 9, Cameron Hayes (Mt Maunganui) 10.
Open Mens 2km Beach Run
Nick Berry (Piha) 1, Wayne Howarth (East End) 2, Jacob Rennie (Mairangi Bay) 3, William Dansereau (Mt Maunganui) 4.
Open Mens Ski Race
Oliver Puddick (Mt Maunganui) 1, Danny Morrison (Mairangi Bay) 2, Steven Ferguson (Piha) 3, Jack Wilson (Orewa) 4, Ben Cochrane (Omanu) 5, Kevin Morrison (Mairangi Bay) 6, Tyler Maxwell (Lyall Bay) 7, Taris Harker (Omanu) 8, Michael Bryant (Papamoa) 9.
Open Mens Board Race
Max Beattie (Omanu) 1, Sam Shergold (Mt Maunganui) 2, Scott Cowdrey (Papamoa) 3, Matthew Thetford (Red Beach) 4, Kevin Morrison (Mairangi Bay) 5, Julien Lalanne (MT Maunganui) 6, Lewis Rosewell (Mt Maunganui) 7, Matthew Strange (Papamoa) 8, Ben Gillies (Piha) 9, Bjorn Battaerd (Mairangi Bay) 10.
Open Mens Beach Flags
Morgan Foster (Sth Brighton) 1, Murdoch Finch (Omanu) 2, Stefan Powney (Orewa) 3, Fraser Cameron (Sth Brighton) 4, Jake Hurley (Mairangi Bay) 5, Daniel Rippon (Piha) 6, Malcolm MacDonald (Mt Maunganui) 7, Sam Paterson (Mairangi Bay) 8, Alex Rippon (Piha) 9=, William Dansereau (Mt Maunganui) 9=.
Open Mens Ironman
Max Beattie (Omanu) 1, Ben Cochrane (Omanu) 2, Jake Allen (Muriwai) 3, Julien Lalanne (Mt Maunganui) 4, Adam Simpson (Mt Maunganui) 5, Bjorn Battaerd (Mairangi Bay) 6, Oliver Puddick (Mt Maunganui) 7, Jack Gavin (Red Beach) 8, Tyler Maxwell (Lyall Bay) 9, Ben Gillies (Piha) 10.
Open Womens Ironman
Hannah Williams (Piha) 1, Jessica Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2, Katie Wilson (Mt Maunganui) 3, Kirsty Wannan (Piha) 4, Victoria Clark (Mairangi Bay) 5, Johanna O’Connor (Mt Maunganui) 6, Nicola Trott (Paekakariki) 7, Rebecca Bailey (Sth Brighton) 8, Lucy Johnson (Sumner) 9, Sarah Wilson (Fitzroy) 10.
U19 Mens Board Race
Charlie Haynes (Mt Maunganui) 1, Hamish Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2, Daniel Barron (Mt Maunganui) 3, Joshua Jarvis (Omanu) 4, Kane Sefton (Mt Maunganui) 5, Daniel Edwards (Papamoa) 6, Walt Robberds (Sumner) 7, Lincoln Waide (Mt Maunganui) 8, Ryan Delaney (Piha) 9, Tom Oolders (Lyall Bay) 10.
U19 Mens 2km Beach Run
Jacques Klavs (Wainui) 1, Lachlan Stevens (NPOB) 2, Max Salmon (Omanu) 3, Jack Gordon (Piha) 4, Jack Birch (Muriwai) 5, Nicholas Hamlin (Whangamata) 6, Sol Somerville (Sth Brighton) 7, Kieran Morgan (Waimarama) 8, Devan Flanders (Westshore) 9, Taine Wilson (Whangamata) 10.
U19 Mens Beach Flags
Jake Hurley (Mairangi Bay) 1, Harry Dods (Waikanae) 2, Liam Stephenson (Papamoa) 3, Calvin Vari (Red Beach) 4, Harry Roberts (Sumner) 5, Joshua Adams (Waikanae) 6, Stefan Powney (Orewa) 7, Robert Bailey (Westshore) 8.
U19 Mens Ironman
Matthew Scott (Midway) 1, Charlie Haynes (Mt Maunganui) 2, Daniel Barron (Mt Maunganui) 3, Blake Brown (Midway) 4, Hamish Miller (Mt Maunganui) 5, Daniel Edwards (Papamoa) 6, Ban Manners (Lyall Bay) 7, Isaac Marshall (Mt Maunganui) 8, Bayden Botha (Mairangi Bay) 9, Joshua Jarvis (Omanu) 10.
U16 Mens Board Race
Kees Kramer (Red Beach) 1, Oscar Williams (Piha) 2, Declan Dempster (Mt Maunganui) 3, Mitch Cowdrey (Papamoa) 4, Patrick Bitrd (Mt Maunganui) 5, Hamish Lockie (Orewa) 6, Sam Readman (Red Beach) 7, Joseph Wilson (Mairangi Bay) 8, John Clark (Papamoa) 9, Levi Ata (Orewa) 10.
U16 Mens 2km Beach Run
Oscar Dove (Piha) 1, Liam Chesney (Lyall Bay) 2, Flynn Grey (Papamoa) 3, Ethan Kerins (Ocean Beach Kiwi) 4, Aiden Smith (Papamoa) 5, Matthew Oliver (Papamoa) 6, Matthew Bond (Whangamata) 7, Sergio Schuler (Whangamata) 8, Jack Spicer (NPOB) 9, Andreas Hamschhmidt (Muriwai) 10.
U16 Mens Beach Flags
Aiden Smith (Papamoa) 1, Ishmael Perkins-Banse (Maranui) 2, Couper Jones (Red Beach) 3, Flynn Grey (Papamoa) 4, Bevan Spragg (Fitzroy) 5, Lachlan Halse (Papamoa) 6, Matthew Bond (Whangamata) 7, Brandon Pearson (Orewa) 8, Matthew Oliver (Papamoa) 9.
Open Mens Canoe
Ocean Beach Kiwi ‘A’ 1, Lyall Bay 2, Waimarama 3, Piha 4, Whakatane 5, Ocean Beach Kiwi ‘B’ 6.
Open Womens Canoe
Whakatane 1, Waikanae 2, Lyall Bay 3, Piha 4, Red Beach Rockin Reds 5, Red Beach Flying Herons 6.
U19 Mens Canoe
Papamoa 1, Waikanae 2, Ocean Beach Kiwi 3, Red Beach Newbies 4.
U19 Womens Canoe
Red Beach 4 Stroke 1, Fitzroy 2, Palmerston North 3, Red Beach Seeing Red 4, Ocean Beach Kiwi 5, Whakatane 6.
Mt Maunganui 178 1, Mairangi Bay 71 2, Piha 62 3, Waikanae and Red Beach 52 each 4 equal, Orewa 48 6, Omanu 42 7, Lyall Bay and Papamoa 38 each 8 equal, Midway 31 10, Ocean Beach Kiwi 19 11, Muriwai, Fitzroy and Waimarama 14 each 12 equal, St Clair, Waihi and East End 12 each 15 equal, Bethells Beach 10 19, Whangamata, NPOB and Whakatane 8 each 20 equal, Titahi Bay and Wainui 6 each 23 equal, Paekakariki and Westshore 5 each 25 equal, Opotiki, New Brighton, Maranui, Karekare and Sth Brighton 3 each 27 equal, Palmerston North and Sumner 1 each 32 equal.
Hosts Mount Maunganui took an early lead on an emotionally-charged first day of the Eastern Regional surf lifesaving championships.
The carnival started with a tribute to Mount club member Hamish Rieger, who died a week earlier after being washed off rocks, with many of the 1000-strong athletes donning black armbands in his honour.
With an easing 1m swell, it was a far cry from the heavy tropical cyclone-infused conditions that had dominated the buildup to the championships, with Mount responding best and collecting 64 points on the first day, 31 points ahead of Waikanae, with Orewa third on 26. They won four of the six surf teams races and finished second in the open men’s, behind Mairangi Bay.
Max Beattie (Omanu) showed his class in the surf race, heading home Adam Simpson (Mount) and former New Zealand representative Michael Buck (Mairangi Bay), while another Mairangi Bay athlete, Jake Hurley, took home the under-19 and open beach sprint double, then joined with Dan Peacock, Kevin Morrison and Sam Paterson to win the beach relay.
Otago swimmer Carina Doyle (St Clair) won the open women’s surf race, with Jess Miller second; Miller linked with Mount teammates Katie Wilson, Johanna O’Connor and former French Olympic swimmer Magali Rousseau to win the surf teams race.
Another former Olympian, Steve Ferguson, paired with Ben Gillies to win the board rescue for Piha, while Devon Halligan and Ashley Cochrane dominated the women’s board rescue for Omanu.
In the surf boats, Red Beach took out the open men’s and open women’s short course final, with Waimarama (men) and Red Beach (women) winning the long course canoe finals.
Results from the first day of the Eastern Regional surf lifesaving championships in Mount Maunganui on January 30, 2016:
Luuka Jones and Mike Dawson are hoping history repeats at this week’s canoe slalom world championships in London.
The leading New Zealand kayakers will be aiming to qualify boats for Rio de Janeiro on the tough Lee Valley course, venue for the 2012 Olympics, with Jones tilting for her third consecutive Games and Dawson his second.
A year ago in Prague, the pair recorded their best world championship finishes, with Jones making the final for the first time and finishing 10th and Dawson ending in 12th. Similar results this week would easily qualify New Zealand spots amid the top-15 nations destined for Rio, with Dawson explaining the London course suits the New Zealand paddling style.
“This course is incredible – it’s big and powerful with so many options,” the 28-year-old said. “I really enjoy paddling here and the feeling on the water. We’re all pretty excited about the week ahead.”
Dawson got his World Cup season off to a flier in Europe this year, setting the fastest time in qualifying in the opening round in Prague and eventually finishing ninth, although he missed the semifinals in the final round in France after his hectic extreme/expedition/slalom schedule took its toll.
Jones, meanwhile, took a while to get her rhythm this season but came right by the time she got to France, qualifying for the semifinals in fourth spot.
“Going into this race is about taking everything I have learned from previous races to put together a performance I can be proud of,” Jones said. “I’ve spent a lot of time at Lee Valley this year and know the course well – I can’t really do anything more to prepare for this event.”
There will also be plenty of interest in the rest of the New Zealand team, with Kelly Travers (C1), Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert (K1) all making their first World Cup semifinals this season and C1 paddlers Ben Gibb and Shaun Higgens making steady improvements.
Tauranga-raised siblings Brydent and Ella Nicholas will also be racing in London for the Cook Islands, with Ella Nicholas already having represented the Pacific Island nation at the 2012 Olympics. Another Bay of Plenty paddler, 17-year-old Daniel Tuiraviravi, will be representing Fiji.Dawson believe the team dynamics are as good as he’s ever experienced leading into a world championship.
“They’re a great bunch to train and work with. It’s going to be awesome to see Luuka race here, as she’s paddling really well, while the younger paddlers have spent a lot of time on the course and have had a great build up.”
The championships get underway on Wednesday night (NZ time).
Lisa Carrington has vowed to find something extra for next year’s Olympics, despite a record-breaking performance at the canoe racing world championships over the weekend.
The 26-year-old Whakatane paddler claimed her fourth consecutive world title in the K1 200m in Milan overnight, adding to the K1 500m crown she collected for the first time a day earlier.
Although her Polish rival Marta Walczykiewicz jumped out to a fast start in the shorter final, Carrington soon drew level and won going away, in 40.060secs. Walczykiewicz was second, 0.640secs back, with Teresa Portela third in 41.248.
“It was pretty tough having four days of racing – the 200m is my favored race but it’s also really hard to back up two big races,” Carrington said. “Results aside, I’m really happy with my performances in the year that has just been, building into these world championships, and hopefully we can keep improving. That’s going to be really tough to do – obviously we’ll keep doing the positive things that are working but we’ll keep looking for other things to improve on.”
The reigning Olympic 200m champion is now a firm favourite to repeat her double-win in Rio de Janeiro in 12 months’ time, while the list of milestones she’s now ticked off is significant.
With her two gold medals this year, Carrington overtakes Paul MacDonald as New Zealand’s most successful world championship athlete, with five. She joins MacDonald as the only Kiwi to win two golds at the same championship and she is the first women in 16 years – and only third in history – to hold both the 200m and 500m titles at the same time.
Canoe Racing New Zealand boss Mark Weatherall paid tribute to the paddling star.
“Lisa truly is worth her weight in gold, not just for the glittering titles she brings back to our shores but also the role modeling she provides,” Weatherall said. “She’s such a focused, disciplined athlete and having her in a New Zealand team rubs off on the other athletes. You can see how important this is by the way the K4 team has lifted this year, while a number of our younger paddlers shone at the recent under-23 world championships. She’s a benchmark for all paddlers to aspire to.”
The women’s K4 crew of Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie created their own piece of history over the weekend, finishing third in their semifinal to advance to the A final. Although they were ninth in a thrilling decider, with Belarus, Hungary and Germany dominating and the Kiwis just 3.745secs behind, it means the Olympic qualifying standard has been met and a New Zealand women’s K4 boat is likely to compete in Rio de Janeiro for the first time.
“We gave it what we had on the day and I am so proud to have these girls beside me for another year of improvements,” Ryan said. “It’s all learning and it’s exciting that we have so much more to show.”
It’s been 23 years since New Zealand last had an Olympic K4 boat, with Richard Boyle, Finn O’Connor, Stephen Richards, and Mark Scheib making the semifinals in Barcelona in 1992, after earlier men’s K4 crews in 1984 and 1988.
There has never been a women’s K4 meet the qualifying standard until now, however, and if they’re confirmed in the Olympic team early next year, the current crew will more than double the number of females to have competed at that level.
Of the 24 New Zealanders who have competed in canoe racing at the Olympic games, only three – Erin Taylor, Carrington and Teneale Hatton – have been in the women’s ranks.
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.
A quartet of Kiwi kayakers will be looking to add a new chapter to New Zealand’s proud Olympic canoeing history this week, when they try to qualify a first female K4 boat for next year’s Rio de Janiero Olympics.
EIGHTBLADES dip and flash in the golden light of dawn, creasing the mirrored surface of the Waitemata Harbour’s upper reaches.
Spray flies as four strong bodies lean into their work. Beneath them, a K4 kayak knifes through the water as a certain melody emerges – the swish of paddles, deep intakes of breath, the singing of an 11m length of carbon fibre coming up to speed.
Much is made of the Olympic creed ‘faster, higher, stronger’ but a world-class K4 crew also needs harmony. It’s the athletic equivalent of a barbershop quartet or a girl-band – one off-key note, or a single stroke out of time and the wobbles can set in from which there’s no recovery.
“No-one actually realises how tippy a kayak is and then you put four people into something tippy… you have to keep it in the same time and the same rhythm,” Caitlin Ryan, part of the New Zealand women’s K4 crew, explains. “Sometimes it doesn’t work but most of the time, the goal is to protect the person in front of you. By making it easier for the person in front of you, it makes the boat flow.”
Ryan and teammates Jaimee Lovett, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie are hoping to turn that flow into a deluge this week. After nine months of muscle-shredding gym work, finger-burning frosty mornings and lung-lashing lactic sessions, the four want to lock in a spot at next year’s Rio de Janeiro with a world-class performance at the canoe sprint world championships in Milan from August 19-23.
It’s been 23 years since New Zealand last had an Olympic K4 boat, with Richard Boyle, Finn O’Connor, Stephen Richards, and Mark Scheib making the semifinals in Barcelona in 1992, after earlier men’s K4 crews in 1984 and 1988.
Such has been the improvement from the current crop, however, that qualification won’t be a total shock. They’ve already made a bold statement by winning the K4 500m at a World Cup round in Portugal earlier this year and finishing fifth a week later against the top European crews.
A similar performance in Milan is likely to transform them from passionate amateurs into equally passionate – but fully-funded – Olympians-in-waiting.
That’s the plan, although Lovett – a 27-year-old raised and nurtured on the beaches around Whakatane – is adamant they’re not getting ahead of themselves.
“Rio is the goal but it’s step by step and remembering to think about the process, getting through one block and one session and ticking the boxes,” Lovett explains. “If we tick the boxes, the end goal is what it is and the results will be hopefully what we want.”
ONA BREEZY February morning last year, newly-appointed Canoe Racing New Zealand boss Mark Weatherall sat on the banks of Tikitapu, the stunningly picturesque Rotorua lake and national championships venue, deep in thought.
The “Carrington factor” – as in, the success and role modeling of world and Olympic K1 200m champion Lisa Carrington – had given female paddling stocks in this country a significant boost. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be the next version of Ohope’s favourite daughter.
The only problem? There’s no place for the next Lisa Carrington if the current version is still peerless, motivated and virtually untouchable.
Weatherall realised the best use of the burgeoning female talent was to focus them in other areas, while the best way to open up opportunities for as many paddlers as possible was to put them in a bigger boat.
A K4 was put together – comprising Ryan, Lovett, Fisher and K1 5000m world champion Teneale Hatton – and sent to the world championships, where they finished a meritorious 14th.
“We could see obvious potential in the crew but one of the big things separating them from the leading countries was consistent access to a quality, dedicated coach,” Weatherall explained.
He approached High Performance Sport New Zealand and was delighted when the sports funding and investment agency gave him the thumbs up to find such a coach. After sifting through nearly 50 applicants, CRNZ appointed former Danish marathon kayaker and national coach Rene Olsen in November last year.
NINEMONTHS after Weatherall’s epiphany, Rene Olsen sat on the same patch of lakeside grass in Rotorua, analysing the talent he had at his disposal.
A compact and uncomplicated character, he noted with interest the historical reliance New Zealand kayakers had on paddling fitness, with our long on-water season contrasted with European emphasis on gym strength.
If he could marry the two philosophies, he reasoned, good things could happen, while there were also significant gains to be had getting them all working together.
“You can’t just take the four best paddlers and make the best boat – you have to think about the different qualities each paddler brings to the boat,” Olsen said. “New Zealand is a small country and if someone isn’t performing, there aren’t huge numbers of people lined up to take their place like in Germany or Hungary. I’m used to getting the most out of the talent that is there and not relying on the numbers.”
Within weeks, his quiet positivity and relentless focus on team building started showing, along with an added gym emphasis.
“Last year, I felt like a little kid and I kind of felt out of place… this year, I know I’m as strong as any other girl there…” – Aimee Fisher
“This last six or seven months with Rene have been a massive step up,” Fisher, the 20-year-old Hawke’s Bay product, confirms. “Last year, I felt like a little kid and I kind of felt out of place, being a teenager. This year, I know I’m as strong as any other girl there and I’ve worked as hard as any of them. Every day, we go out there and we’re striving for excellence and breaking new boundaries – I’m really enjoying training and loving life.”
Like Weatherall, all four female paddlers have come through the surf lifesaving scene, graduating to surf skis in their mid-teens before branching out into flatwater racing.
Ryan has been with the Red Beach club, for instance, since she was five, became a qualified lifeguard at 14 and has won six national ski titles in her career, including the coveted open crown in 2012 and 2013.
Now a practicing dental hygienist, Ryan was born just five days after her Wellington crewmate Imrie, who grew up in the Hutt Valley and turned out for the Paekakariki surf club and Mana kayak racing club as soon as she could.
Imrie, 23, has speed, strength and reach, making her the ideal back-seat in the boat, as the four friends fuse together.
“We’re all really good mates but then when we’re on the water, we’re all good colleagues trying to achieve the same goal,” Imrie says. “Everybody has really different personalities but I think that’s really good and we work really well together.”
OFCOURSE, working together is easy on the good days, when everyone is feeling good, the wind is friendly and the air warm.
Unfortunately, the crew is based in Auckland, where golden dawns and mirrored waters are rare and precious. Bleak, squally gloom is far more likely through the middle months of the year, with pre-dark starts and achy bones testing even the tightest teamwork.
But this isn’t an ordinary road to Rio. Rise or fall, succeed or fail, the four friends are in it together, paddling in harmony, something the experienced campaigner Lovett has noted with interest.
“One of the biggest changes is the mentality shift,” she explains. “We used to look at what the wind was going to be like and what the water was going to be like and whether we were going to have a good session – but none of that stuff really matters any more. We’ve got work to do and we just get on and do it. That’s a good shift because when you race, you’re going to have all sorts of conditions. We’re better prepared for that situation now – we just race in whatever and don’t really worry about it.”
Lisa Carrington is in a confident frame of mind as she eyes an unprecedented canoe sprint world championship double this week.
Carrington will spearhead a nine-strong New Zealand team in Milan when racing begins tomorrow night (NZ time), with the championships doubling as a qualifier for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The 26-year-old is a warm favourite in the K1 200m – the event in which she’s the reigning world and Olympic champion – but she’ll also try and add the K1 500m world title for the first time, despite a hectic schedule of four consecutive days of racing.
“Just having the experience of racing over the last two years, racing both K1 500m and 200m, has given me the confidence that I can do both events,” Carrington said. “My training schedule has also prepared me to compete in both events so I have the stamina and fitness to do both.”
Carrington picked up K1 500m silver at last year’s world championships in Moscow, although Hungary’s gold medalist Danuta Kozák is likely to focus on K2 and K4 team boats this week. Kozák lost the recent Hungarian national trials to rising under-23 star Anna Kárász, who shapes as Carrington’s main rival in the longer distance, while Beijing Olympic champion Inna Osypenko-Radomska, having switched nationalities from Ukraine to Azerbaijan, also looms as a big threat.
Polish paddler Marta Walczykiewicz, who finished second to Carrington in the K1 200m world championship final, is likely to be in the mix in the shorter distance, although the Kiwi hasn’t been touched at world cup level in recent years and sounded a warning to her rivals she’s in as good a shape as ever.
“My preparation for these worlds has gone really well – every year since the last Olympics, I’ve been able to build up and build up and this year has been really good. Just having another year under my belt and being able to work on those things I need to work on has helped me get stronger and fitter.”
Paraconoeist Scott Martlew will start the New Zealand campaign tomorrow, having been confirmed overnight in the tough KL3 division, with Carrington, fellow K1 paddler Marty McDowell (K1 1000m) and men’s K2 pairing Darryl Fitzgerald and Zac Franich racing heats and semifinals on Thursday.
The women’s K4 of Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie aren’t racing until Friday, although there are high hopes the crew will be able to qualify a team boat in Rio after a strong world cup debut earlier this year.
The New Zealand team arrived in Milan on Sunday, after a varied buildup. McDowell and Carrington spent time trialing a pre-Olympic training base in Spain before heading to Slovenia, where they met up with the women’s K4 and men’s K2.
The team also used Rowing New Zealand’s base at Lake Bohinj for some of their harder sessions, with Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale following their progress from the comfort of the coach boat last week.
Canoe Racing New Zealand chief executive Mark Weatherall was confident the big investment in the team, supported by High Performance Sport New Zealand, would pay dividends this week.
“We’ve deliberately set the bar high for our athletes this year and they’ve really worked hard to get to Milan,” Weatherall said. “We’re pretty excited about our prospects this week and hopefully that hard work will translate into some good results.”
Lisa Carrington continues to blaze a merry path on the world kayaking scene but a quartet of fellow female Kiwis are eagerly following her lead.
Carrington, the world and Olympic K1 200m champion, collected yet another world cup gold medal overnight with a narrow victory in the K1 500m final in Portugal. WIth barely enough time to warm down, she then sat back and watched teammates Caitlin Ryan and Aimee Fisher open their season with a shock silver in the K2 500m final.
In just their third-ever race together, the duo powered their way down the blustery Montemor-o-Velho course and finished just 0.36secs adrift of Hungarians Anna Kárász and Ninetta Vad, after qualifying for the final by winning their heat.
“The heats were a bit of a blur but we debriefed last night and came out settled and focused ready to race in the final,” Ryan explained. “We weren’t too focused on the result in the final; instead we were just making sure we got our rhythm right and using the strength we’ve been building on in the gym all year and to come away with a silver with a good mate to celebrate with is an amazing feeling.”
They didn’t have long to celebrate, climbing into their specialist K4 boat with Kayla Imrie and Jaimee Lovett for the afternoon session and immediately picking up where they left off.
In the second heat of the K4 500m, the quartet overcame a sloppy start to haul in the Portuguese team, clocking 1min 39.56secs to again qualify directly for tonight’s A final.
Although several top European paddlers have skipped the first world cup, it’s still a promising start for the foursome, who Canoe Racing New Zealand have invested heavily in with an eye on next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They will also contest tonight’s K2 200m race, which is a straight final.
Carrington, meanwhile, kept her nose in front of the chasing pack by winning her K1 200m heat and clocking the fastest time ahead of tonight’s final.
She didn’t have things all her own way in the 500m decider, however, with Hungarians Anna Kárász and Krisztina Fazekas-Zur putting plenty of pressure on her at the start.
The top-three all finished within a second of each other, although Carrington’s composure proved crucial as she clocked 1:48.01, beating rising star Kárász by just 0.56secs.
Marty McDowell was the other Kiwi in finals action in finals, knocking nearly 15secs off his semifinal time to finish seventh in the K1 1000m final, won by Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta.
McDowell backed that up later in the K1 500m, finishing third in his heat behind former Olympic champion Adam Van Koeverden (Canada) and France’s Cyrille Carre, with the top-three going straight to the A final.
Scott Bicknell will contest the B final of the K1 200m, meanwhile, after drawing a wide lane and being buffeted by the strong crosswinds in his semifinal.