Day 2 of the 2022 NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro included 77 races, with a wide range of ages on display, from 74-year-old Rosemary Gatland of North Shore, through to the 12-and-under divisions, all racing alongside some of the World’s best sprint kayakers.
In the day’s headline race, Aimee Fisher became the 2022 Women’s K1 500m national champion, beating Dame Lisa Carrington in a thrilling final in front of a large crowd of cheering spectators.
Both athletes produced outstanding performances, befitting their respective World and Olympic Champion status. Carrington started strong, pulling to a boat length advantage in the first 200m. Fisher made a strong move in the final third, overtaking Olympic champion Carrington in the very final metres to win by a mere 0.08 seconds, in a photo finish, with a time of 1 minute 53.82 seconds.
A vocal crowd of fans turned up in sunny conditions to watch the world’s best competitors racing each other, which Fisher admits helped her in the back-end of the race.
“It’s surreal, what a special moment,” Fisher said.
“It is so cool to share it with all my people. There is so much love out there and I felt it all, especially in that last 100 metres when everything was hurting and shutting down, I could hear everyone cheering and it carried me through to the finish line.”
Adding to the importance of the final, the race also doubled as a trial for New Zealand’s sole spot in the K1 500m event at the World Championships this year, with Saturday’s final the first of up to three clashes between them in the coming days.
“There was a lot of pressure coming into this weekend as I am sure it was for everyone,” Fisher said.
“To have all of my family here and all the people who made the trip down to Cambridge, people that have stood by my side for years now and to go out there and get that victory for them, for the team and to paddle well in those circumstances under pressure, it was special.”
Fisher, from Hawke’s Bay, enjoyed being involved in such a closely fought race against someone the calibre of six-time Olympic medallist Carrington, even though Fisher wasn’t completely sure who had won the final.
“I had a feeling I had got it, purely based on people’s reactions, at the end of the day it was a phenomenal race to be a part of,” Fisher said.
“It was the clash of the titans and she’s an incredible athlete and it’s a real privilege to be able to go out there and go blow-to-blow with her and give it a good crack. It was very cool to be a part of that race.”
Two-time Olympian Teneale Hatton finished third, while Alicia Hoskin won the U23 title, with Tara Vaughan in second and Samalulu Clifton third.
In another closely-fought Open final, James Munro from Otago claimed his first national title with a win in the Open Men’s K1 500m, to go with his silver medal in the Men’s K1 1000m on Friday.
Munro has only recently taken up sprint kayaking after a career in motor racing. He has been coached by former World Champion and Olympic medallist Ben Fouhy since 2021, and last month joined the CRNZ centralised men’s program at Karapiro under Coach Tim Brabants.
Munro finished with a time of 1:42.22, ahead of CRNZ teammates Max Brown of Whanganui (1:43.20) and Ben Duffy, representing Arawa (1:43.57).
Some exciting up-and-coming talent was on display in the Open Women’s K2 500m, with Canoe Racing NZ teams taking all three podium positions.
Hoskin and Lucy Matehaere secured the gold medal in 1:47.17, ahead of Olivia Brett and Hatton (1:50.59), while Vaughan and Clifton (1:51.55) claimed bronze.
In other sections, North Shore’s Greer Morley won the Women’s 18-and-under K1 500m in 2:04.51, ahead of Natasha McGibbon (2:07.79) and Madison Garrett (2:10.42).
Meanwhile, former rowing great Rob Waddell “has to do the dishes tonight” after he finished seventh in the final of the Men’s Novice K1 500m, behind son Hayden, who claimed bragging rights with second place, behind Mana’s Liam Neal.
Hawke’s Bay won the popular 100m Club Relay ahead of Arawa (Christchurch) and Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Action gets underway at 8:15am on Sunday morning, with World Championship and World Cup trials giving top Open Men’s K1 1000m, Open Women’s K1 500m and Open Para K1 200m competitors a chance to claim a place in the New Zealand team.
The NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro goes from Friday 22 April until Sunday 24 April. For full results and schedules go to https://liveresults.co.nz/competition/433