Rising paddlers get high performance boost

Author -  Karen Simpson

The pathway to Tokyo 2020 has just got clearer for four young paddlers, after the canoe sprint season got underway in Rotorua over the weekend.

Rising paddlers get high performance boost

The pathway to Tokyo 2020 has just got clearer for four young paddlers, after the canoe sprint season got underway in Rotorua over the weekend. October 10 2016

The pathway to Tokyo 2020 has just got clearer for four young paddlers, after the canoe sprint season got underway in Rotorua over the weekend.

Hawke's Bay's Elise Legarth, Gisborne's Britney Ford, Wanganui's Max Brown and Tauranga paddler Taris Harker are the new faces in Canoe Racing New Zealand's high performance squad, along with Christchurch bolter Ben Duffy.

While Duffy didn't make the trip north, the other four used the annual Blue Lakes 1 regatta at Tikitapu to gauge where they're at.

Making the 10-strong female high performance squad, alongside Lisa Carrington and the national K4 crew, meant a huge deal to 19-year-old Legath, who is in her first year at Waikato University studying environmental science.

Elise Legarth 1.jpg"It pretty much means I can do as well as I want to - there's just so much more support," Legarth said. "I've already had my first week training on the programme and it's been a big step up but I'm really excited about it."

If she needed a graphic example of how valuable the squad is for paddling development, she needed only to look at her rivals over the weekend.

Without Carrington and the K4 crew, the female ranks were dominated by North Shore pair Rebecca Cole and Briar McLeely. Cole won the K1 1000m, McLeely grabbed the K1 500m and 200m, then they teamed up to dominate the K2 200m and K2 500m, while Legarth was third in each of the individual finals.

Max Brown 1.jpgIt was a similar story in the men's ranks, where Mana's Kurtis Imrie cleaned up, winning over all three K1 distances, then teaming with Brown to win the K2 1000m.

Brown and Imrie are training partners in Wellington, although the whole nine-man male high performance squad will move to Auckland in December to train under new national men's coach Frederic Loyer.

"The support system will open up a lot more doors for me," Brown said. "Being in Wellington is awesome and Mark Watson helps me out a lot but it takes me half an hour to get to training in the morning and I've been living in cold, damp flats, so I'm keen to get into a better training environment."

The 21-year-old will finish his music degree this year - he's been studying jazz guitar at Victoria University - and is more than happy to give up one of his loves to focus on another.
"I've chosen kayaking over music at the moment because you can't kayak at the top level when you're 50 but you can still play guitar!"

TAris Harker 1.jpgHarker has been the steadiest improver over the last year, having formed a solid training unit with Bay of Plenty teammate Tim Waller. That potential helped out after illness hit during the national trial a fortnight ago.

"I wasn't really expecting to get in because I didn't think I performed that well at the trial but it turns out I did enough to get in," Harker said. "Tim and I have worked really well together, bouncing off each other in the gym and on the water, but the bigger the squad, the higher the level gets. I'm really looking forward to the fact there's going to be a lot of us working together under Fred's program in Auckland, with nine of us all there on the water every day, in the gym every day. That will be great."

Harker finished second in the K1 200m at Blue Lakes 1, just 0.46secs behind Imrie, and third in the K1 1000m behind Imrie and another high performance squad member, Ben Tinnelly (Otago University).

Britney Ford 1.jpgFord, meanwhile, has recovered from a dislocated shoulder that marred her season last year, with the 18-year-old already noticing the step up into national women's coach Rene Olsen's program.
"It's definitely been an eye-opener - we've done a couple of massive gym sessions and they've been really hard," Ford said. "I've slept pretty well afterwards - a few of us are still a bit sore now!"
Like Legarth, Ford is also in her first year away from home, studying in Auckland where she's been training at Lake Pupuke.

Joining the high performance squad means she'll spend her days rubbing shoulders with Kayla Imrie, Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan and Aimee Fisher, who finished fifth in the K4 Olympic final in Rio.
"I've already noticed that strength component is going to be a big factor, based just on what the other girls are lifting. I really need to work on my technique and get my strength into the boat and onto the water, then hopefully I'll start dropping my times."

Legarth, meanwhile, is looking forward to reacquainting herself with Hawke's Bay clubmate and good friend Fisher, who is two years her senior.

"Aimee has already been a huge influence - right from when I first started, I trained with her every day and she's always been really good at bringing back knowledge from the last two years she's been in the squad," Legarth said. "She's been instrumental in helping me and she's a pretty good mate."

Carrington and the K4 squad are expected to turn out for the second Blue Lakes regatta in December.

Full Results

New Zealand high performance squads:
Women: Aimee Fisher, Briar McLeely, Britney Ford*, Caitlin Ryan, Elise Legarth*, Jaimee Lovett, Kayla Imrie, Kim Thompson, Rebecca Cole, Lisa Carrington.
Men: Ben Tinnelly, Benjamin Duffy*, Craig Simpkins, Jaimie Banhidi, Kurtis Imrie, Marty McDowell, Max Brown*, Taris Harker*, William Wilkins.
* = new squad mem

Rising paddlers get high performance boost

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