Kiwi kayakers line up first world cup

Author -  Jamie Troughton

New Zealand kayaker Scott Bicknell will join a seven-strong national team racing at this weekend's opening world cup in Portugal.

Kiwi kayakers line up first world cup

New Zealand kayaker Scott Bicknell will join a seven-strong national team racing at this weekend's opening world cup in Portugal.

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Some of the international big guns may be missing but New Zealand's top kayaking talent have clear goals heading into the first world cup of the season.

The seven-strong canoe sprint team begins racing on Friday night (NZ time) at Montemor-o-vehlo in Portugal, the first of three world cups on consecutive weekends.

World and Olympic K1 champion Lisa Carrington heads the team, with a K4 women's boat - Caitlin Ryan, Jaimee Lovett, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie - and Scott Bicknell (K1 200m) and Marty McDowell (K1 1000m) joining her.

The first world cup comes just two weeks after the European championships, with a number of European nationals sending development squads instead.  That suits the likes of Bicknell, who has been given instructions from coach Richard Forbes to race the clock rather than those around him.

"We are simply looking to show an improvement - I did a 35.9sec at last year's world championships and a 35.6sec at the New Zealand nationals this year, so we're mainly focused on showing that progression in performance," Bicknell said. "If we keep chipping away at the time, the results will follow."

Just two of the nine finalists from last year's world championships will line up against Bicknell, although those two are defending world champion Mark de Jonge (Canada) and world championship bronze medalist, Spaniard Saul Craviotto.

"There's definitely not the level of depth we would expect at the world championships but there are still some very good paddlers here and everyone is just keen to get amongst the racing and get the first hit-out done," Bicknell said.

Carrington's main rivals are also missing, including Hungarian Danuta Kozak, who pipped the 25-year-old New Zealander in last year's K1 500m decider at the world championships. The longer 500m race will be first on Carrington's programme this week, with South African Bridgette Hartley and Teresa Portela (Portugal) expected to be her main rivals.

Polish paddler Marta Walczykiewicz, who finished second to Carrington in the K1 200m world championship final, is racing this weekend but only in a K4 boat, with Sarah Guyot (France) and Portola the only other survivors from the final in Moscow last year.

Both Carrington and Wellington's McDowell will sport new Nelo boats this weekend, with the 28-year-old McDowell looking to build on his impressive national championships in February. He demolished a strong K1 1000m field, heading Olympic silver medalist Ben Fouhy and 2012 Olympian Darryl Fitzgerald by nearly 5secs, after linking with Carrington's coach Gordon Walker this season.

His 3mins 45.78secs nationals time, albeit in choppy conditions, is still some way off the 3:25.09 clocked by world champion Josef Dostál (Czech Republic) last year, although Dostál, silver medalist Miroslav Kirchev (Bulgaria) and third-placed Rene Poulsen (Denmark) will all be missing this weekend.  Australian Murray Stewart and former Olympic K1 500m champion Adam van Koeverden (Canada) will be among the leading contenders.

Two members of the women's K4 boat will get an early look at the expected choppy conditions in Montemor-o-vehlo, meanwhile, with Fisher and Ryan combining to race the K2 500m on the opening day.  The pair captured the national title earlier in the year with a shock win over Carrington and Lovett and Australians Jo Brigden-Jones and Naomi Flood, who made the final at the worlds last year.

Most interest will centre on the larger boat, however, with Imrie joining the K4 ranks for the first time this year and Canoe Racing New Zealand investing in top Danish coach Rene Olsen to run their program.

Olsen has a solid background with Danish national teams after a lengthy career as a former top-level sprint paddler and more recently, marathon kayaker, with crews under his watch winning fistfuls of world championship medals.

While Carrington and paralympian Scott Martlew have been pre-selected for the world championships in Italy later this year, the other crews will need to prove their worth at the world cups.

"We've been pretty selective about the squad we've chosen and definitely have Rio de Janeiro in the back of our minds," CRNZ chief executive Mark Weatherall said.  "We're looking for strong international performances, plain and simple. These crews need to prove that they are capable of reaching finals at the highest level."

 TV coverage

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cups will be screened LIVE on a Sky TV pop-up channel at the following times:

May 16 (Sat) 9.50pm

May 17 (Sun) 9.35pm

 Live results/footage

Follow the world cup live here

A schedule of racing for this weekend can be found here

or read previous article for a list of the kiwis schedule showing NZ times too

Key dates:

May 15-17 - World Cup 1 (Coimbra, Portugal)

May 22-24 - World Cup 2 (Duisburg, Germany)

May 29-31 - World Cup 3 (Denmark)

August 19-23 - World championships (Milan, Italy) 

Kiwi kayakers line up first world cup

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