Lisa Carrington enjoyed a brilliant start to her Olympic campaign on Monday, part of an impressive first day overall for the New Zealand canoe racing team in Tokyo.
The double Olympic gold medallist took out her K1 200m heat in imperious fashion, recording the quickest time of the day to progress directly to Tuesday’s semi-finals.
Carrington was back in action only 90 minutes later, combining with Caitlin Regal for a convincing win in their K2 500m heat at the Sea Forest Waterway.
It was a commanding effort from the 2017 world champions, as they took control early, then conserved some energy before the finish, to book their semi-final spot.
The results leave Carrington on track for her ambitious goal of four finals in the Japanese capital.
That pursuit starts on Tuesday, as the Ohope paddler faces two semi-finals in the space of an hour.
She’ll compete in the first K1 200m semi-final at 9:30am (12:30pm NZT), before the K2 500m semi-final with Regal at 10:30am (1:30pm NZT).
The scratch K2 500m crew of Teneale Hatton and Alicia Hoskin will also be in semi-final action on Tuesday (1:23pm NZT), after progressing via the quarter final on Monday.
The top four from each semi-final progress to the final, with the K1 200m decider timed for 2:37pm (NZT) and the K2 500m climax at 3:46pm (NZT).
In her first international outing since the 2019 World Championships, Carrington gave an assured performance in her favourite sprint event, which she has owned for almost a decade.
The Ohope paddler, wearing a long-sleeved white top rather than the traditional black singlet, in deference to the hot conditions, was drawn in lane five of the final K1 200m heat.
Carrington was strong out of the blocks, quickly establishing her dominance. By the halfway mark she was almost a length ahead, before easing down in the final quarter.
Carrington clocked 40.715 seconds, with Russian Svetlana Chernigovskaya coming in second with 41.540.
Others to impress on the first day were former world champion Maria Teresa Portela (Spain), who took heat three in a swift 40.812 and Hungary’s Dora Lucz who prevailed in a thrilling second heat.
Lucz recorded 41.098, to pip Rio silver medallist Marta Walczykiewicz (Poland) by the narrowest of margins (41.100) with 2016 Olympic finalist Linnea Stensils (Sweden) a fraction away in third (41.109).
The other heat winners were 2019 World Championship bronze medallist Emma Jorgensen (Denmark), who made up for slow start with a blistering second 100m and China’s Mengdie Yin.
Francesca Genzo (Italy), Hungary’s Anna Karasz and 2012 Olympic finalist Teresa Portela also progressed directly to the semi-finals.
Carrington was one of only two K1 200m paddlers to break 41 seconds. While placings are more relevant in the heats, that time still bodes well, as competitors on Monday morning had to negotiate a headwind.
Carrington and Regal then produced an authoritative display in the K2 500m, finishing almost a length ahead of the German crew of Sabrina Hering-Pradler and Tina Dietze.
The Kiwis shared a quick hug after they returned to the pontoon, clearly satisfied with their work.
With Carrington in the bow, they made a tidy start and soon took control of the race.
They clocked 49.34 at the halfway mark, 1.07 seconds ahead of the Germans. The Kiwis extended their lead in the second 250m, before slowing ahead of the line to record 1:43:836, the third fastest among the four heats.
Among the other crews, Hungary’s Tamara Csipes and Erika Medveczky were the standouts, winning heat three in 1:42.776. The other Hungary crew, featuring five-time Olympic champion Danuta Kozak, took out the first heat, while Poland, featuring Rio bronze medallist Karolina Naja, were quickest in heat two.
Meanwhile, Hatton and Hoskin finished fourth in their K2 500m quarter final, to reach the semi-final.
They stopped the clock at 1:50.507, more than two seconds ahead of Denmark in fifth spot, after earlier placing fourth in their heat.
It was a solid effort from the duo, who maintained their stroke rate under pressure in the final 250 metres.
“We reviewed what we had done and what we could potentially do a little better for the next one – and we nailed it really,” Hatton told Sky Television after the race.
The 21-year-old Hoskin was soaking up every moment of her first Olympic campaign.
“I’m really lucky to be in the team that I am,” she told Sky Television. “I’m learning heaps off these girls and we continue to push each other in different ways. We all have different strengths so we can help each other get better.”
The two races represented invaluable time on the water for the new combination, whose focus in Tokyo is the K4 500m, where they will team up with Carrington and Regal.
All images courtesy of Vera – Art of Rowing