CRNZ Blog

Introducing Hamish Legarth

Author -  Karen Simpson

The teenager who hails from Havelock North has earned a surprise call up to the men’s K4 team for the forthcoming ICF World Cup series and ICF U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Romania in August. We find out more about his story.

Introducing Hamish Legarth

The teenager who hails from Havelock North has earned a surprise call up to the men’s K4 team for the forthcoming ICF World Cup series and ICF U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Romania in August. We find out more about his story.

Hamish Legarth.jpeg

The teenager who hails from Havelock North has earned a surprise call up to the men’s K4 team for the forthcoming ICF World Cup series and ICF U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Romania in August. We find out more about his story.

Sibling inspiration

Growing up in Hawke’s Bay, Hamish tried a range of sports as a schoolboy. He skippered the first XI hockey team at Havelock North High School, he finished top five at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Orienteering Championships and he was canoe polo representative. However, it was at the age of “12 or 13” and watching his older sister Elise paddle, which acted as the catalyst to take up canoe sprint.“I got the kayaking bug because of my sister,” explains Hamish of Elise, who competed for New Zealand at the Junior and U23 World Championships. “I would travel to regattas to watch Elise but that’s when I thought, if Elise is paddling I might as well paddle too. She was an inspiration and someone I looked up to. It is amazing what she was able to achieve.”

From the Bay to Belarus

Coached during his formative years by Ben Bennett out of the Hawkes Bay Canoe Club, Hamish proved a natural winning national titles as a tyro and at an U14 paddler, although his main focus back then was canoe polo.

That all changed, however, in 2016 when at the age of 16 he made a big breakthrough. Early that year he competed at the Oceania Championships in Adelaide helping the K4 team to second before placing third in the K1 1000 U18 final at nationals. All of which helped earn him a spot on the team for the Junior Sprint World Championships later that year in Belarus.

“Up until then I was more interested in canoe polo but from that point on I started to take kayak racing more seriously,” he admits.

Worlds debut

At the World Juniors in Minsk, Hamish and his crew were eliminated at the semi-final stage which has a “big disappointment” but he learned much from his first global championship.

“It was definitely a big step up,” he admits. “I remember the first time they opened up the lane for start gate practise, I was so nervous I was shaking in the boat.

“But competing at the junior worlds gave me great experience of being in a K4 and now that I’m competing at the open level, I’m feeling the benefit.”

Romanian roller-coaster

The following year Hamish returned for a second crack at the Junior Worlds and in Pitesti, Romania and experienced an up and down championship. Partnering with Dylan Neal-Hill in the K1 1000m, with whom he has triumphed in the GP2 earlier that year in Australia, the pair finished fifth in the B Final after just missing out on the medal race. Once again, however, he endured frustration in the K4.

“We had enjoyed a really good build-up in Slovenia but for whatever reason we didn’t quite put it together in the semi-final,” he explains. “We were hoping for more.”

All change

Last year, Hamish experienced a big year of change. Just a week before competing at the 2018 National he moved north to settle in Hamilton to start a civil engineering degree at the University of Waikato. Yet despite the far from ideal build up, he performed solidly in his first year as an open athlete, placing third with Sean McCarthy in the K2 200m and finishing seventh and eighth in the K1 1000m and K1 500m events, respectively.

A partial dislocation of the shoulder last July, however, badly hampered his preparation for the national performance assessment.

Despite struggling with the injury he pulled out a good performance at the assessment – which involved 2km and 75m time trials, plus erg and strength testing – and last November he was invited to join the men’s elite squad based at Lake Karapiro.

“It was a big surprise as I was possibly needing shoulder surgery, but I managed to push through the pain,” adds Hamish, who had been guided for a period by Scott Bicknell until Fred Loyer took on the coaching duties five months ago.

Unexpected twist

The shoulder has continued to present problems and it was decided he would undergo surgery in May. Despite the badly compromised preparation he performed solidly at nationals in February; finishing ninth in the K1 500m final and took victory in the B Final of the K1 1000m.

Initially told he was not required for the international season because of the planned surgery he has then encouraged to try out for the K4 boat at Trials alongside Ashton Reiser, Ben Duffy and Zac Ferkins.

“We flew from the first trial and that earned us selection for the World Cups and the U23 Sprint World Championships,” he adds. “It came as a huge surprise.”

Global vision

Opting to now manage the shoulder in the hope that surgery is no longer required, Hamish is now relishing the prospect of competing at World Cup regattas in Poznan and Duisburg in May and June.

“I never thought I would be on such a stage so young,” explains Hamish, 19. “We just have to go out there and do the best race we can. At the U23s I hope we can pull out a good performance and finish in the top half of the A Final and, hopefully, win a medal.”

Passion play

Believing one of his strengths is competing in the K4 he is looking forward to laying down a solid platform this year with the long-term goal to one day both compete and medal at the Olympic Games.

Yet beyond the pursuit of medal Hamish just thrives on the thrill of racing.

“I love the competitive side of the sport, challenging myself and seeing myself become faster over time,” he adds.

Article by Steve Landells

Introducing Hamish Legarth

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