Kayakers to open world cup campaign
New Zealand’s top canoe sprinters will be focused on the long game as their international season gets underway at the opening ICF World Cup series event in Portugal this weekend.
The eight-strong, all-female squad includes two K4 boats and various K2 combinations, with Olympic and world champion Lisa Carrington opting to focus on team ambitions rather than individual success at the Montemor-o-Velho venue.
Photo - Jamie Troughton
Instead, North Shore paddler Caitlin Ryan will get a chance to test her K1 500m credentials, opening the Kiwi campaign on Friday, while Carrington and Aimee Fisher and Kim Thompson and Rebecca Cole will race the K2 500m heats.
National women’s coach Rene Olsen said that Sunday’s K4 500m - a straight final - is a great place to pick up from last year’s historic Olympic fifth-placing, with Carrington replacing her retired Eastern Bay clubmate Jaimee Lovett and joining Ryan, Fisher and Kayla Imrie.
“Kayla has stepped up strongly from the second seat at the Olympics to be the new driver/stroker and the Olympic girls have formed back together fast in this new K4,” Olsen said. “Lisa has done a great job of adjusting to the bigger boat - she has worked hard to make sure the boat gets the maximum benefit out of her great power - and we're focusing on the long game, using each race as another opportunity to check and adjust the process.”
Thompson, Briar McLeely, Cole and Britney Ford will form the second Kiwi quartet, alongside their New Zealand teammates, Mexico, Ukraine, Spain, Great Britain, Hungary and two boats from hosts Portugal.
Of the other Olympic K4 finalists, only fourth-placed Ukraine will return with most of their crew intact, courtesy of Inna Hryshchun, Mariya Povkh and Anastasiya Todorova. Rio gold medalists Hungary have an under-23 combination, without the likes of Krisztina Fazekas-Zur and Olympic legend Danuta Kozák, while Great Britain (seventh in Rio) have also opted for youth.
That gives Olsen a great chance to see how his young chargers are progressing.
“Our young K4 have really impressed in training and it’s going to be really interesting to see them up against some of the top under-23 crews from Hungary and Great Britain on Sunday. For all of them, it's their first World Cup and they will get massive experience out of racing at this level.”
Athletes from 27 nations will compete in the Portugal round, with Ryan lining up in the K1 500m heats against the likes of Poland’s Marta Walczykiewicz, second to Carrington in the K1 200m at the last four world championships and in Rio, as well as Portugal’s Teresa Portela and multiple team boat world champion Fazekas-Zur (Hungary).
Imrie and McLeely will line up on Sunday in the K2 200m heats, alongside Fisher and Carrington.
Other world and Olympic champions racing this weekend include Sebastian Brendel (Germany), Staniliya Stamenova (Bulgaria) and Martin Fuksa (Czech Republic) and Rio silver medallist Maxime Beaumont (France).
Montemor-o-Velho will also host next year’s ICF world championships.
The New Zealand team will return after the second World Cup in Hungary at the end of May, before a new team will be named to tackle the world championships in Račice, Czech Republic, from August 23-27.
New Zealand team: Lisa Carrington (Eastern Bay of Plenty), Rebecca Cole (North Shore), Aimee Fisher (Hawke’s Bay), Britney Ford (Poverty Bay), Kayla Imrie (Mana), Briar McLeely (North Shore), Caitlin Ryan (North Shore), Kim Thompson (Poverty Bay).
World Cup 1 (Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal) - May 19-21
World Cup 2 (Szeged, Hungary) - May 26-28