Kiwi Kurtis Imrie produced a herculean effort on the final day of the 2019 ICF Junior and U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Pitesti, Romania to grab an outstanding U23 K1 500m bronze.
Racing four times in a little under four hours on the Budeasa Dam on the Arges River, Imrie summoned the energy to clinch New Zealand’s maiden medal of the regatta with a top-quality display.
Competing in the penultimate A Final of the four-day championship, the Mana paddler was rewarded with precious metal for a typically aggressive but well-judged effort.
The 23-year-old rocketed out of the start to establish an early advantage and hit the 250m mark with a 0.40 lead from the German Jakob Thordsen.
In the second half of the race the powerful German took control of the race, but Imrie would not be denied a podium spot. In the final sprint for the line, the Kiwi, whose elder sister Kayla is part of the New Zealand women’s elite open squad, conceded gold to Thordsen (1:47.247) and silver to the Dane Rasmus Knudsen (1:47.983) but finished almost half a second clear of the remainder in 1:48.575 for bronze.
Imrie had earlier qualified for the A Final by placing second in 1:49.765 – 0.660 behind the semi-final winner Agustin Rodriguez of Argentina to sneak into the medal race by a slender margin of just 0.228 from the fourth placed finisher Michal Bil of Poland
The powerful Kiwi also took to the water in the U23 men’s K4 500m having stepped in the previous day as a last-minute replacement for Ashton Reiser, who was forced to withdraw through illness.
Teaming up with Zach Ferkins (Poverty Bay) Ben Duffy (Arawa) and Hamish Legarth (Hawkes Bay), New Zealand placed fifth (1:27.509) in the second semi-final – finishing 3.012 behind semi-final victors Denmark – to progress to the B Final.
In the consolation final, the men in black made a rapid start and at the 250m checkpoint sat in a handy fourth spot. However, the crew struggled to maintain their position and crossed the line seventh in 1:30.919 –3.854secs behind race winners Russia.
“I’m buzzing and happy with how the weekend went,” explains Kurtis. “I was not putting too much pressure on myself to target a medal but I would definitely have favoured that my strongest event would be the K1 500m.
“I only got told yesterday morning I was needed to step into the K4 because Ashton was sick. I was the only option (to replace) and I was willing to jump in and give it my best shot because I did not want to let down the guys that I train with all year.
“It was challenging to race four races in one day but I trusted that Fred (Loyer), my coach, had got me physically fit enough and mentally I just had to hold it together.”
“I then knew I just had to execute the best race I could, and, for me, that is attacking the race and getting out as quickly as I could. I managed to do that pretty well and I’m happy to jump on the podium and come home with some hardware.”
New Zealand’s junior men’s K4 500m crew wrapped up their regatta by placing ninth in the B Final. The quartet of Lucas Thompson and Jack Clifton of Whanganui and the Waitara duo of Fletcher Moles and Robson Old had earlier advanced from the semi-final on time – finishing eighth in 1:35.560 behind race winners Russia (1:27.166).
In the consolation final the Kiwis clocked 1:39.002 to finish a little over eight seconds behind the triumphant French crew. The four Kiwi teenagers will, nonetheless, have benefited from their European experiences.
Olivia Brett and Pieta Luthi were the remaining New Zealand crew in action on the final day in Pitesti. The junior women’s K2 500m combination competed in the second semi-final and the duo made a blistering start to lead after 100m.
At the halfway mark the Kiwis were still in contention for a top three placing, which would have elevated the all Arawa Club pairing to an A Final. Unfortunately, they could not maintain their pace and exited the competition in eighth (2:06.354). In a race with a strong East European flavour Belarus (1:56.087) pipped Serbia by just 0.078 to take out the semi-final win.
Image of Kurtis Imrie competing in the U23 men’s K1 500m Credit: Florence Minowa
Article by Steve Landells