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Monday, 7 December 2015
Hatton, who has spent most of the last year chasing waves around the globe as the world's most dominant surf ski paddler, romped home in the K1 500m final to reignite her dreams of competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"It's a bit of a surprise but it's nice to see, after having a year away from K1 racing, that I've still got something there," Hatton said. "I felt I needed to step away, freshen up, have a bit of fun and really find my passion for the sport again. I got to the start line just now and I was stoked to race. I had a bit of a smile on my face and I was thinking 'this is cool - this is exciting again'. It was definitely a boost of confidence."
Hatton finished in 1min 52.47secs, the first time she's beaten Carrington since 2008, with rising Hawke's Bay star Aimee Fisher completing the upset by finishing second in 1:53.25.
An uncharacteristically flat Carrington, who finished in 1:53.75, was pragmatic about the result in her first race back since August, relishing the increased competition in the women's ranks.
"It's always disappointing when you want to be better but Teneale and Aimee are paddling so well and you can't detract from how good they're going," Carrington said. "It's good to have a hit-out and it also pushes me knowing the spot isn't mine until I prove it."
Carrington qualified two Olympic spots with her historic world championship 200m-500m double in August, though her selection still needs to be confirmed. Although this weekend's regatta was the first official selection event of the season, February's national championships and past performances will also be taken into account.
Hatton, who won the world surf ski championships in Tahiti in October, spent two weeks training in Sydney and as recently as last week was still indulging in ocean racing in Perth. That diet of varied paddling is unlikely to change now.
"We're all coming off heavy base work so you don't have a lot of speed, and everyone's at difference phases but everyone's still fighting it out and to take a win is pretty satisfying, this early on, especially coming off the long ski stuff," she said.
Fisher, who was part of the New Zealand women's K4 boat who also qualified for Rio, completed a dream weekend by taking out the K1 200m final, although Carrington and Hatton didn't race that distance.
She clocked 41.33secs in the sprint, finishing ahead of her three K4 teammates, Caitlin Ryan (42.21), Kayla Imrie (42.86) and Jaimee Lovett (43.31).
Scott Bicknell and Marty McDowell led the charge in the men's ranks, meanwhile, with both paddlers eyeing Olympic qualification through the Oceania championships in February.
Bicknell comfortably won the K1 200m in 35.54secs, ahead of Hawke's Bay clubmate William Wilkins, with North Shore's Jamie Banhidi third. Bicknell then paired with Craig Simpkins to win the K2 200m final from Wilkins and Andrew Roy (Bay of Plenty).McDowell also showed the benefit of recent training in Sydney with Australian champion Murray Stewart, after failing to secure an Olympic-qualifying result at the world championships.
"I took a bit of a hit at the world champs and it took a bit to come back from that but I've been over in Aussie, training for the last month and that was awesome - I got a lot out of that," McDowell said.
The Mana club member won the K1 1000m final in 3:38.09, ahead of Canadian representative Chris Mehak, with 2012 New Zealand Olympian Darryl Fitzgerald third in 3:41.86 after struggling with a recent back injury. That injury saw Fitzgerald withdraw from the K2 1000m final, leaving McDowell and Ben Tinnelly to ease to a 2sec win over Mehak and Zac Quickenden (Arawa).
Provided the Kiwi men win their respective Oceania titles, Olympic scheduling means only a K1 1000m and K2 200m combination or a K1 200m and a K2 1000m squad can be selected. And even if they do book a spot in Adelaide, they must then prove to the New Zealand Olympic Committee they're capable of placing in the top-16 in Rio. The uncertainly means that Fitzgerald is keen for all the male paddlers to push each other as hard as possible in the next two months.
"I've been training in Australia with Marty and he's been going really well - hopefully once my back's all good, I'll be able to give him a bit more competition," the Poverty Bay paddler said. "I'd like to be in a K2 that's going to the Olympics but I know there are a lot of hoops to jump through and stars to align before that will ever happen. The guys have all got to get together and make it happen. The guys are all in the same boat - the girls are going really well and we're a bit behind par so we've got to pick our game up and it's going to be a lot easier working together rather than trying to be individuals."
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