Increased depth brings out the best in Kiwi men’s squad at Nationals

The future looks bright for the New Zealand men’s kayak squad after Day 1 of the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro on Friday 22 April.

Since the breakout fifth-placed performance of Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie in the Men’s K2 1000m at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, the Canoe Racing New Zealand High Performance squad of young canoeists, has doubled, with 10 athletes capable of pushing each other on any given day.

This was evident in the Open Men’s K1000m, where Taranaki’s Waitara Kayak Club paddler Ben McCallum edged out Canoe Racing New Zealand High Performance team-mate James Munro from Otago, to take the national title in a time of 3 minutes and 39.91 seconds.

“That is probably the hardest race I have ever done,” McCallum said.

“James (Munro) paddled really well. I didn’t look until the last 100 metres, I thought I was a bit in front, but he was right next to me.

“I brought out a kick I didn’t really know I had. It brought the best out of me.”

Munro finished in a time of 3:41.01, with Ben Duffy third (3:46.99) and Imrie in fourth place (3:50.75). Thomas MacGibbon won the U23 title.

While not all of the up-and-coming High Performance athletes were in attendance at the nationals, the increased depth was also obvious in the Open Men’s K2 500m.

Tokyo Olympians Brown and Imrie were beaten in a tight finish by Canoe Racing New Zealand team-mates Hamish Legarth and Duffy.

Legarth and Duffy just held on for the win in a time of 1:33.54, just 0.2 seconds ahead of Brown and Imrie, with Canoe Racing New Zealand’s Zach Ferkins and Ashton Reiser third (1:35.28).

The even-contests continued in the Men’s K4 500m, with Canoe Racing New Zealand teams taking out the top two places.

Brown, Legarth, Imrie and Ferkins claimed the victory and bragging rights by 1.38 seconds from Munro, Reiser, McCallum and Duffy.

Olympic Champion Lisa Carrington and World Champion Aimee Fisher both cruised straight into Saturday’s highly-anticipated final of the Open Women’s K1 500m, with commanding wins in their respective heats on Friday, where they will be joined by rising star Alicia Hoskin.

Fisher’s heat winning time of 1:50.89 was nearly four seconds faster than Carrington’s and 10 seconds faster than Hoskin’s, although with victory secured relatively early in each heat, it is difficult to know how much to read into the times.

In the Open Women’s K4 500 the Canoe Racing New Zealand combination of Teneale Hatton, Samalulu Clifton, Lucy Matehaere and Tara Vaughan took the title from Poverty Bay and North Shore.

In other results, experienced 2004 Athens Olympic Games silver medallist Ben Fouhy finished a respectable eighth in the Men’s K1000 final, won by McCallum.

The 43-year-old showed he still can match it with younger competitors, going the long route to the final through the heat and semifinal first, for a busy opening session of the championships.

He then backed up his efforts, winning the Men’s Masters K2 500 with Waitara team-mate Troy Burbridge.

In the 18-and-under women’s section, promising youngsters Natasha MacGibbon and Brieanna Cox from Christchurch’s Arawa Canoe Club claimed the Women’s 18-and-under K2 1000 final in a nail-biting finish.

The duo completed the 1000-metre course with a time of 2:00.20, just 0.13 seconds ahead of Poverty Bay’s Genna Robertson and Madison Garrett (2:00.33). Not to be outdone, Ngarita MacKenzie and Isla Joyce third, joined their Arawa Canoe Club on the podium, in third place.

The quartet joined forces to win the Women’s 18-and-under K4 500 event in a time of 1:48.50, ahead of Eastern Bay Canoe Club and North Shore Canoe Club.

Damian Da Silva from Hawke’s Bay edged out Wanganui’s Angus Sewell by just 0.45 seconds, in an exciting Men’s 18-and-under K1 1000 final, with a time of 4:09:90. Local Karapiro competitor Logan Ferguson finished in third place.

There is plenty to look forward to on Day 2 of the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro on Saturday 23 April.

Racing goes from 8:30am until 5pm, with the Women’s K1 500m final featuring Olympic Champion Lisa Carrington, World Champion Aimee Fisher and up-and-coming Alicia Hoskin at 9am, while the Men’s K1 500m starts at 12:20pm.

Competition for World Cup and World Championship spots are still up for grabs with New Zealand trials on Sunday morning, giving Men’s K1 1000m, Women’s K1 500m and Open Para K1 200m competitors another 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 go to