Forty seconds of kayak racing tomorrow morning could have lingering ramifications for the rest of the year, as the New Zealand canoe sprint championships get underway at Lake Karapiro.
The women’s K1 200m heats and finals help kick off the three-day NZCT-sponsored championship, with world and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington facing one of her biggest selection battles at this level.
The Eastern Bay star’s rivals include world under-23 champion Aimee Fisher (Hawke’s Bay), North Shore’s Caitlin Ryan, Mana’s Kayla Imrie and an array of rising talent eager to test themselves against their senior colleagues, including Waitara’s Rebecca Cole, Kim Thompson (Poverty Bay), Britney Ford (Poverty Bay) and Mana’s Danielle Watson.
Ryan has spent the past year training and competing with Carrington, under coach Gordon Walker, while Fisher and Imrie joined the world championship-winning K2 500m pair to collect bronze in the K4 500m in August.
“At the end of the day, we want our fastest paddler on the line of a world champs and we can never overlook Lisa’s capability but I am excited that I get to sit beside the world’s best on a start line,” Ryan said. “Even better for me is that I get to train daily with that standard - and while the 200m has never been my thing, it’s cool to be able to practice all aspects of kayaking and test the speed I have been working on.”
Carrington has been unbeatable at the shorter distance for the past seven seasons, at all levels, but she will need another emphatic victory tomorrow to ensure she doesn’t need to trial for her world championship spot. She sat out the individual boats at last year’s national championship, after an extended break following the Rio Olympics. Fisher, in particular, looms as a major threat, having claimed the under-23 K1 200m and 500m double at the junior worlds in Romania in July. Saturday afternoon’s K1 500m final will also be intriguing.
The championships have attracted more than 300 entries, including a number of Pacific Island paddlers and a contingent from Japan.
Multisport star Sam Clark will also compete, just two weeks after winning his third Coast to Coast crown, testing his kayak speed before turning his attention to Ironman New Zealand early next month.
He’ll compete in the K1 1000m and the K1 5000m, with the shorter distance featuring four heats of 32 contenders chasing the title vacated by Rio Olympian Marty McDowell.
Mana’s Kurtis Imrie has the best credentials, having won the K1 200m and 500m at last year’s championships and finishing second to McDowell in the 1000m, although Poverty Bay’s Quaid Thompson looms as a fierce rival for Imrie long-term.
There’s added interest in tomorrow’s programme with the official opening of Canoe Racing New Zealand’s new $2.3 million high-performance training centre at the lake, while former Olympic board sailing champion Tom Ashley will have his first full day as CRNZ chief executive on Saturday.