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Thursday, 25 February 2016
World and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington will be seeking an eighth-straight K1 200m crown on Lake Karapiro, although it's the depth building around her which is drawing most attention. In fact, Carrington was beaten into third in her last competitive outing - in the K1 500m at the Blue Lakes 2 regatta in Rotorua in December - as the rapidly-rising women's K4 squad starts to assert itself.
Teneale Hatton won that race, followed by Hawke's Bay 21-year-old Aimee Fisher, who said the progress made under national women's coach Rene Olsen had been mental as well as physical.
"The whole crew has made big gains over the year and no doubt I am stronger and fitter than this time last year but I think my biggest gain has been knowledge," Fisher said. "I used to turn up to nationals hoping for a good performance - now I have done the work and I understand just what I am trying to achieve in each phase of the races. I won't just be relying on feeling great on the day."
Fisher, Caitlin Ryan, Kayla Imrie and Jaimee Lovett helped qualify the K4 boat for Rio with a series of strong World Cup performances last year, culminating in making the final at the world championships. Hatton, who took last year off to concentrate on her ocean ski paddling, has come back into the K4 selection frame, although she will also challenge Carrington in the K1 500m in a much-awaited clash on Saturday afternoon.
Canadian Adam van Koeverden will add a huge chunk of class to the men's field, meanwhile, when the K1 200m heats kick off on Friday. The four-time Olympic medalist - he won K1 500m gold in 2004 and K1 1000m silver in 2012 - is visiting New Zealand after competing in the recent Oceania championships in Adelaide. He'll line up in a stacked heat on the opening morning, with reigning national K1 200m champion Scott Bicknell and K1 1000m champion Marty McDowell also in the mix.
McDowell beat van Koeverden in the semifinals of the K1 1000m at the Oceania championships, keeping alive a chance of qualifying for Rio, while Bicknell and Craig Simpkins still nurse hopes of getting a K2 200m spot, although that will rely on Australia's availability.There are no such problems for Fisher and her crew, although the final makeup of the boat is still to be determined.
"It is great going into nationals having the K4 qualified for Rio," Fisher said. "It’s a huge hurdle out of the way and now everything is preparation for August. We still have to justify our places in the boat but at least we know the boat is going."
The three-day national regatta begins on Friday morning.
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