Introducing Britney Ford

Author -  Karen Simpson

We find out more of the kayaking journey of the Gisborne-raised 21-year-old World Cup-bound paddler.

Introducing Britney Ford

We find out more of the kayaking journey of the Gisborne-raised 21-year-old World Cup-bound paddler. Britney Ford 2.jpeg
We find out more of the kayaking journey of the Gisborne-raised 21-year-old World Cup-bound paddler.

School sports
Britney was introduced to kayaking not through the traditional route of surf lifesaving but via Gisborne Intermediate School. Each Friday the sport was offered as an option – even though Britney was initially far from enthused by the prospect.

“I was not overly interested but all my friends signed up, so I was not going to let my friends go along and be all by myself!”, she explains.

“I fell in the water four times during my first session but Liz Thompson, who ran the programme, made it fun. We’d paddle up the river, race and then paddle up to the tree with the rope swing. Every Friday we’d go on little adventures.”

Liz learnings

Attracted by the fun element to the sport, when Liz offered Britney the opportunity to train more seriously at Poverty Bay Kayak Club she jumped at the chance.

Enjoying success at her very first regatta - Blue Lake 1 - she thrived under the coaching of Liz and also training alongside a strong group of age-group paddlers at the kayak hotbed.

“I learned so much from Liz, and even today I still remember things she taught me, like where to look when following people in a team boat and how to stay in time in the boat,” she adds.

International debut

Quickly developing into the leading national age-group kayaking she snared no less than eight gold medals at the national championships and international selection followed.

After competing at the GP2 regatta in Sydney in 2014, Britney aged just 16 at the time, was called up for the New Zealand team to compete at the Junior World Championships in Szeged, Hungary.

Racing alongside Briar McLeely in the K2 500m the duo finished fifth in the B Final and it proved a memorable experience for the East Cape paddler.

“I learned a lot from the trip,” she explains. “I remember thinking as we trained in Racice in the Czech Republic this is awesome to be away from school, and just able to train.”

Auckland challenges

After competing for a second straight year at the Junior World Championships in 2015, the following year it was all change as Britney shifted from her home in Gisborne to start a new life in Auckland to study an urban planning degree.

Unfortunately, despite her excitement at moving to the big city, the switch proved much more challenging than Britney anticipated.

“I thought living in the city and training twice a day over the North Shore would be super easy but it was nothing like I expected,” explains Britney, who that year finished eighth in K4 500m semi-finals at the 2016 World U23 Championships in Belarus. “I was also studying a degree I didn’t overly enjoy, so I had a lot of figuring out to do.”

National call-up

Later switching to an environmental science and earth science degree at the University of Auckland has proved a welcome change for Britney while in late-2016 she received a boast as she was selected as part of the national squad based out of Lake Pupuke.

“It was on the one hand really exciting and on the other really scary,” explains Britney of joining the national set up. “I had moved from being a club paddler to now train at this massive facility. Yet training with the older girls and watching them train was awesome. I started working on a lot of new exercises in the gym and my fitness and strength quickly improved.”

World Cup experience

Working under the coaching trio of Gordon Walker, Nathan Luce and Jasper Bats has completely transformed the way Britney approaches sessions, her recovery and also her technical form and in 2017 Britney experienced the thrill of making her World Cup debut in Portugal. There she finished sixth in the K4 500m - alongside Briar McLeely, Rebecca Cole and Kim Thompson - and the experience proved invaluable.

“It was really cool. I’d never seen Lisa (Carrington) Aimee (Fisher) and Kayla (Imrie) race in an international environment before and I learned a lot on that trip like how to race, how to paddle together as a team and how to be a team.”

Britney then ended her international season on a high by helping the K4 500m boat to eighth spot in the A Final at the World U23 Championships in Romania.

World Cup return

Boasting good natural strength, Britney enjoyed a solid 2018 campaign, helping the K4 boat to ninth in 500m final at the World U23 Championships in Bulgaria before experiencing some mixed results at the 2019 nationals at Lake Karapiro.

Britney was then elated to be called up to the New Zealand World Cup squad for regattas in Poznan and Duisburg

“I’m really excited to be out there again and to practise everything we’ve done in training,” she says. “It is going to be awesome to be around the open girls, to watch how they prepare and be around them for racing.”

French goal

Also part of the World U23 Championships squad in Romania later this year the Murrays Bay-based paddler has her eyes fixed on some ambitious future targets.

“I definitely want to get to the Paris Olympics (in 2024), that is the long-term goal,” she says. “But to be honest, I just want to keep working towards being the best version of myself and the best paddler I can be.

“Kayaking brings joy to my life,” she says. “I enjoy the people, the sport and the racing. When I’m racing it is such a unique feeling, which I don’t get to experience in any other aspect of my life.”

Article: Steve Landells

Introducing Britney Ford

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