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Thursday, 13 August 2015
The 22-year-old Christchurch paracanoeist is part of a nine-strong Kiwi team - which includes reigning world and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington, a women's K4, a men's K2 and Marty McDowell (K1) - who will be trying to book tickets to Rio de Janeiro next year.While his eight teammates have clear performance goals to qualify for the Olympics, Martlew has the added hurdle of having to be reclassified before he starts his heats on Wednesday, after the ICF changed the disability criteria earlier this year.
"The change may affect a couple of people and it might be a slight advantage for me but I'm not counting on that to qualify," Martlew, who lost his left leg to a rugby injury in 2010, said. "There's still going to be a lot of competition, which ever class I'm in."
His new classification is likely to be in the KL1 division, where he needs a top-six finish in his specialist 200m to automatically qualify for the Rio Paralympics. Since his first world championship in 2012, Martlew has finished fifth, seventh and seventh - with last year's eighth-place upgraded after Ukrainian gold medallist Yuriy Kikhayev was disqualified for a doping offence.
The New Zealand team arrives in Milan on Sunday, after a varied buildup. McDowell and Carrington spent time trialing a pre-Olympic training base in Spain before heading to Slovenia, where they met up with the women's K4 of Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie. The men's K2 of Darryl Fitzgerald and Zac Franich joined them last week.
The team also used Rowing New Zealand's base at Lake Bohinj for some of their harder sessions, with Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale following their progress from the comfort of the coach boat last week.
Martlew, meanwhile, has spent the majority of his training time in the Czech Republic, with Christchurch locals rallying behind him and raising $12,000 to help give him some meaningful preparation. He's hoping to repay them with a big performance next week.
"I'm feeling confident from the training I've been doing - I've had a lot of quality sessions and I'm pretty excited to get on that start line."Martlew's 200m heats and semifinals are on Wednesday night (NZ time) with Carrington (K1 500m), McDowell (K1 1000m) and the K2 men's crew all kicking off their racing a day later.
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