Since discovering the thrill of kayaking as a young teenager Tauranga’s Mike Dawson has been pushing himself with tougher challenges on the water.
Ten years later Mike, 24, has earned a reputation as a top paddler both in slalom and extreme racing events.
Mike Dawson competes at the national selection event in Kawerau in n January. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Journalism.
For the past 18 months his focus has been on preparing for the Olympics and with the competition just around the corner, he says he is fired up and focussed on getting his ‘A game’ going.
His race to the top of the sport began in 2004 when, at 17, he won the Wairoa Extreme race ahead of many older, more experienced kayakers. A series of successes have followed – winning his first national slalom title the same year, a title he has held every year except two since.
“Making the Olympics was the goal last year. Once I achieved that (in September) I turned my focus to performing at the games. I guess it’s not about the outcome, it’s more about the performance.”
He has been in Europe preparing for the games since April, with what he describes as a ‘full-on’ travel and training schedule. The preparation has had its bumpy moments, with a series of penalties at the world cup races leaving him out of contention, despite otherwise good performances.
“The world cup circuit didn’t go to plan. Despite making all three semi-finals I failed to have good clean runs in the semi-final stage of the event and hence didn’t make the final.
“My speed was there, it was just the result of a hectic travel schedule leading in, equipment failure, and some mistakes during the racing. It was a great wake-up call in getting on form for the games.”
Mike is looking forward to moving into the athlete’s village to get into a settled routine after some final events in Ivera, Italy, and Bratislava, Slovakia. He joined up with the Olympic team on Monday this week.
To help fund some of his travel, and to give his paddling an edge, he often competes in extreme racing events – including the Teva Mountain Games in Colorado, which he has won twice and come second in once in the past four years.
“Extreme racing is a great way to make some prize money to get to the next event, and it’s also a good way to boost your confidence coming into an event like the Olympics.”