Kurtis and Max enjoy a perfect day

Tokyo-bound paddlers Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie enjoyed a day of perfect preparation in their Olympic quest by starring as the headline performers on day one of the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at a sun-drenched Lake Karapiro.

Brown and Imrie – who are selected for the K2 1000m in Japan – secured gold and silver in a titanic tussle in the open men’s K1 1000m A Final before the pair united in their specialist event to clinch gold and crown a successful day.

The open men’s K1 1000m promised to be one of the races of the regatta and it more than lived up to expectations with a classic three-way battle.

Max Brown made his trademark aggressive start off the start line but by midway little could separate the Whanganui paddler, Kurtis Imrie and Quaid Thompson, the 2019 national champion, as the trio seized control of the race.

However, drawing from his rich endurance reserves, Brown slowly edged clear of the opposition in the final 250m and despite a late burst of acceleration from Imrie, Brown stood firm to win by 0.62 in a time of 3:33.96. Thompson of the Poverty Bay club also produced a good performance to take bronze in 3:35.48 with 35-year-old veteran Fred Teear (Arawa) back in fourth (3:39.42).

“I’ve a bit emotional, I’ve only ever won gold medals in team boats at nationals, so it is quite special for me to win my first individual title,” adds Brown. “I always feel like I add lots of value in the crew boats, but it is cool to win the single.

“The race went perfectly. The sun was directly in my eyes and I couldn’t see anything the whole race. I had to go purely off feeling and pacing, which is something I’ve been trying to do more. I tend to go out too hard, so I’ve been looking to be more consistent. I got to 200m to go, and thought; I am going to win this. It was lovely.”

Brown and Imrie later combined to bring the curtain down on the day one action with an outstanding performance in the K2 1000m final. 

The duo were challenged for the first half of the race by CRNZ training partners Ben Duffy and Hamish Legarth but simply proved too strong in the second half of the race to accelerate to victory in a slick 3:19.15. Legarth and Duffy, who had defeated Brown and Imrie at Blue Lake 2 in December, produced a quality display but had to settle for silver (3:27:45).

What should not go unrecognised was the quality performance delivered by two-time World Championship para-canoeist medallist Scott Martlew, who alongside Ben McCallum secured a brilliant bronze in 3:34.14.

Imrie was delighted with his and Brown’s all-round efforts today, which puts them in prime position in the countdown to the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m pretty happy with how the day has gone,” he explains. “Max got me (in the K1 1000m) but I’m over the moon for him. Looking at my (K1) race I probably executed my best race in a long time. The K2 was a quality field, so I’m pretty happy come away with it. We have good fitness going into the Games, so we can’t ask for anything better.

Aimee Fisher claimed her first national individual title for four years with a dominant display in the open women’s K1 500m final. The Hawkes Bay paddler and three-time World Championships representative quickly opened up a gap on the field and stopped the clock in 1:49.62 to secure gold.

Behind, a field of young, promising largely U23 paddlers was led by Lucy Matehaere (Otago) who secured silver in 2:01.08 – 0.77 clear of the fast-finishing Emma Kemp (Mana), who grabbed bronze. 

“It was a really good race,” said Fisher. “We were missing a couple of key players (with Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Ryan and other elite women taking part in the K4 Olympic Trials this week) but I just went out there with the goal of wanting to paddle beautifully. I’ve been working really hard on a few technical elements. I was trying to chase art out on the water and light up my lane and I felt like I managed to do that today.”

Masters paddler Vaughan Reed secured a golden hat-trick on a memorable day for the Auckland-based athlete. Reed produced an accomplished performance to lead home a North Shore clean sweep of the podium in the masters 45-54 K1 1000m from Garth Spencer and Andy Logue. Earlier he had teamed up with Spencer, the same combination that won the 2019 World Masters K2 Marathon title, to repel the challenge of Waitara duo Carl Barnes and Troy Burbidge by just over a second-and-a-half in a keenly fought battle.

Logue and Spencer then former one half of the triumphant K4 500m North Shore team which claimed gold alongside Andy Logue and Kingi Gilbert, who combined winning gold with his duties on the day as presenter for Sky Sports.

Nenni Disse further cemented North Shore’s dominance in the masters division by claiming a decisive gold in the women’s K1 500m event.

Barnes (Waitara) claimed the first gold medal of the 2021 New Zealand Championships as he cruised to an impressive gold medal success in the K1 1000m Masters 35-44 division. The Waitara paddler stormed to an emphatic win in a time of 4:08.90 to clinch victory by a victory margin of more than 11 seconds from Rob Creasy (Arawa).

t was a memorable day for the MacGibbon household as the brother and sister act from the Arawa Club brought home a swag of four gold medals.

Older brother Thomas was a dominant winner of the men’s K1 1000m gold, establishing a good early rhythm and coming home to the race victory in 3:45.29 by a victory margin of 2.99 secs from silver medallist Daniel Brown (Hawkes Bay).

MacGibbon later combined with Alex Hickman to secure top spot in the U18 men’s K2 500m with an impressive performance. The pair stopped the clock in 3:38.48 to finish a little over three seconds clear of Hawkes Bay duo Daniel Brown and Damian Da Silva.

Not to be outdone, younger sister Natasha completed a golden double in the U16 girls K2 500m and K4 500m. 

Teaming up with Sophia Shearer she clinched victory in a captivating K2 500m final. Unleashing a late surge from lane one the pair overhaul the North Shore combination of Greer Morley and Abbey Smith in the latter stages to take gold medal in 1:57.23 by just 0.07.

MaGibbon and Shearer alongside Isla Joyce and Ngarita McKenzie also banked gold in the women’s U16 K4 500m final.

Mia Padrutt and Poppy Barnes enjoyed a successful day in the women’s U14 division taking double gold. The duo teamed up to win the K2 500m event for the Waitara club having earlier featured as one half of the K4 500m gold medallists in the colours of Poverty Bay.  

The action continues tomorrow at Lake Karapiro from 11am. The highlight of the day two schedule is the open’s men’s K1 500m the final scheduled for 1.20pm. 

Download the Canoe Racing NZ app to follow all the results. All the results from day one here

Images: Georgia Schofield