How the AIMS Games proved pivotal to Alicia’s kayaking development

New Zealand international kayaker Alicia Hoskin is among the cream of the country’s emerging paddling talent. Here the 21-year-old 2019 World Championships K2 500m A finalist talks about the crucial role the AIMS Games played in her career development.

It might be a stretch to say Alicia Hoskin would not be enjoying her current kayaking success without the AIMS Games – but the intermediate age national multisport festival unquestionably played a pivotal role.

A keen triathlete in her younger days, and partly inspired by older sister, Courtney, who had competed in multisport events at AIMS Games in the past – Alicia was keen to test herself in the sport which combines running, mountain biking and kayaking.

“I already had mountain biking skills and I had done cross country and a lot of running through triathlon,” explains Alicia, who attended Ilminster Intermediate School in Gisborne.

“But I’d never done kayak before, which was a new thing for me. As a school we went down to Poverty Bay club to learn how to paddle. I remember practising in big sea kayaks, which was like sitting on a bath tub for me because I was so little at the time.” 

Alicia recalls the challenge of first sitting in a kayak was not easy. The ‘tippy’ nature of the boat would mean learning the basic skills could be frustrating but over time she slowly improved and gradually her passion grew.

“You really have to work at your technique but that is part of what makes kayaking so satisfying and why I have such a passion for it,” she explains. “It is not easy to kayak when you first start, but that challenge really motivated me to want to learn more.”

After a couple of months kayaking, Alicia (see above kayaking at the AIMS Games) approached competing at her first AIMS Games with some trepidation.

However, the talented Gisborne-based athlete need not have worried as she claimed victory in the Year 7 girls multisport event – and fully relished the experience.

“I felt very nervous because it was one of the first events competing for my new school,” she explains. “But it was super exciting to hang out with a cool group of friends and we had really awesome coaches. I was confident in the mountain biking and running and probably less confidence in the kayak. But once I competed, it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be and I ended up loving it.”

Her passion lit, for the next 12 months she massively developed her paddling skills and made significant technical advancements. Alicia competed at the Blue Lake regattas and made her debut at Canoe Sprint nationals. 

As a Year Eight student she returned to the AIMS Games where she once again claimed multisport victory at McLaren Falls – coincidentally the venue which this year will host the canoe sprint event at AIMS Games.

“Kayaking has a huge technical side, so the more I practised the better my technique got and the more efficiently I could paddle, the faster I could go.”

Alicia fondly recalls the “good vibes” of the AIMS Games, the fun she enjoyed with friends and the collective buzz of taking on a fresh challenge.

Yet personally competing at the annual multisport event proved hugely significant in her sporting journey.

“AIMS Games lit that spark in me to want to paddle,”  explains Alicia pictured above competing in the multisport event at AIMS Games. “It is where I learned the satisfaction in the challenge of learning a new sport and wanting to improve and my kayaking career quickly snowballed from there.”

Canoe sprint was only first introduced into the AIMS Games programme in 2019 and Alicia would encourage any budding paddler to seize the opportunity and compete at this year’s event.

“Especially for the young kids who haven’t done a lot of kayaking, the experience can take you out of your comfort zone, which can be hugely exciting,” explains Alicia pictured below after winning multisport gold at AIMS Games. “There is no pressure to win the races, but simply enjoy the experience, learn new skill and meet new people. It is totally worth it.”

The 2021 canoe sprint action for the 2021 AIMS Games takes place at McLaren Falls on Tuesday September 7. Paddlers will compete in the 100m sprint, 200m sprint, 500m circuit, 100m relays and mixed 100m relays. 

Entry deadline is 11.59pm on Wednesday June 9 to register go here

Top Image: Vera Bucsu

Other images: Supplied by Alicia