Crew focus for top womens kayakers

Author -  Karen Simpson

New Zealand's next Olympic kayaking contenders are likely to form a women's K4 boat, if new national coach René Olsen has his way.

Crew focus for top womens kayakers

New Zealand's next Olympic kayaking contenders are likely to form a women's K4 boat, if new national coach René Olsen has his way. New Zealand's next Olympic kayaking contenders are likely to form a women's K4 boat, if new national coach René Olsen has his way.

Olsen has recently taken over the female programme and had his first official assignment at the Blue Lakes regatta in Rotorua this weekend.

Though high winds curtailed much of today's racing, the Denmark-raised coach came away satisfied with the performance of his charges, heading into Olympic qualification year.

"I'm very impressed with some of the gains the girls have already made over the last two months," Olsen said. "Even though they've been concentrating on a lot of gym work, they raced well this weekend and some of the young girls are showing great potential."
While world and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington will continue to work with her coach Gordon Walker, Olsen's potential pool of athletes include world 5000m champion Teneale Hatton, Kayla Imrie, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Jaimee Lovett.
Imrie and Ryan (North Shore) had a strong K2 500m race yesterday, level-pegging with top Australians Naomi Flood and Jo Brigden-Jones through the first half of the race before fading to third, while Hawke's Bay product Fisher and Ryan also paddled strongly in the K1 500m.

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.
He makes no apologies for putting his focus in crew boats, reasoning that Carrington's illustrious presence all but rules out paddlers wanting to make it as individuals during the current Olympic cycle.

"I'm 100 percent focused on putting together a K4 and I think that's the best chance for not only making the Olympics but performing well when we get there. There's a lot of focus on individual strength down here but having a K4 crew boat is different. You can't just take the four best paddlers and make the best boat - you have to think about the different qualities each paddler brings to the boat and that's what helped me get success in Denmark. New Zealand is a small country and if someone isn't performing, there aren't huge numbers of people lined up to take their place like in Germany or Hungary. I'm used to getting the most out of the talent that is there and not relying on the numbers."

Olsen has already noticed some key differences in the New Zealand kayaking ranks, such as their reliance on paddle fitness. He's watched old videos of Paul MacDonald and Ian Ferguson racing in their prime and believes it's a symptom of our long paddling season.

"Back in Europe, we have that long winter season and it's more natural for us to put a lot of gym work in, where you're able to paddle a lot more here in New Zealand over the year. Ferguson and MacDonald were classic examples - they had a much higher stroke rate all the way and could go so fast in the middle part, but the European strength often comes through in the second half of races."
The current exception, he says, is Carrington who is a much more rounded athlete but he's already made strength work a focus.
Carrington also led the way in today's racing before the wind became too strong and racing was abandoned, comfortably winning her K1 200m heat.

Tauranga's Scott Bicknell won the only open final raced, with the reigning national champion using all his surf lifesaving skills to fight through the chop and win the K1 200m in 36.67secs. Christchurch's Zac Quickenden (Arawa) was 1.13secs back in second, while Craig Simpkins (Karapiro) finished third in 38.02.
The next major regatta on the calendar is the national championships in Karapiro in February, doubling as the Oceania Championships, where a strong contingent of Australian paddlers is expected to feature.


K4 1000m: Ben Tinnelly (Poverty Bay/Jasper Bats/Zac Franich (North Shore)/Marty McDowell (Mana) 3:24.38 1, Aiden Nossiter/Max Brown/Tim Rowe/Toby Brooke (Wanganui) 3.29.72 2, Matt Loveridge/Steven Armstrong/Sam Blackmore/Daniel Murtagh (Arawa) 3:30.26 3.
K1 200m: Scott Bicknell (BOP) 36.67 1, Zac Quickenden (Arawa) 37.90 2, Craig Simpkins (Karapiro) 38.02 3.

K4 500m: Briar McLeely/Caitlin Ryan/Rebecca Cole/Teneale Hatton (North Shore) 1:46.13 1, Naomi Flood/Jo Brigden-Jones/Anne Cairns (Oceania)/Kayla Imrie (North Shore) 1:46.79 2, Kim King/Jaimee Lovett/Lisa Carrington/Rachel Dodwell (Eastern Bay) 1:53.57 3.

FULL RESULTS  (now includes 'missing' races)


Article and photos courtesy of Jamie Troughton, DScribe

Crew focus for top womens kayakers

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