McKenzie strikes gold at Ocean Racing World Champs

Kiwi Danielle McKenzie produced an outstanding paddle at the ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in France to bank a richly-deserved gold medal following a dominant display in the open women’s race.

On another memorable day for New Zealand female paddling, following their recent gold medal success at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, the 2015 world champion Teneale Hatton also grabbed a podium spot to take bronze behind Danielle.

New Zealand maintained their ongoing medal success in the open women’s division, and have now snared five of the nine medals available at the past three World Championships.

Competing into a tricky sidewind on the 22km course in Saint-Pierre De Quiberon, Danielle, a Ironwoman specialist competing in only her third surfski race, dominated from the early stages to complete the race in 1:43:48 – one minute and 20 seconds clear of the defending champion Hayley Nixon of South Africa in silver.

“It is pretty awesome to win against such a stacked field,” explains Danilelle, who was born and raised on Auckland’s North Shore but is now based in Gold Coast, Australia. “I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. Ski is my strongest discipline in surf lifesaving and I have wanted to do more surfski competitions. I was heading to Durban, South Africa for an international surf rescue event and when I saw that the World Ocean Racing Championships were in France, and while I was over in this part of the world, I decided to give it a crack.

“For the first 2km I paddled with Teneale, I was feeling really good and then just took off. I had a feeling I was leading, but it was hard to know. The open men, who started two minutes behind, caught up at 7km and I jumped on their line.”

“As I crossed the line all the boys were clapping and cheering me, it was a pretty awesome accomplishment to win.”

Danielle also had an additional reason to perform well following the death of her grandad, Bob, from cancer just two days earlier.

“He always called me his number one granddaughter and always loved hearing of my accomplishments,” she says. “It was an extra motivation.”

Danielle is an outstanding all-round athlete. She won a World Championship U19 silver medal in the sport of triathlon, is three-time surf lifesaving world champion and also a successful ironwoman performer.

Teneale was happy to secure a fourth successive ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championship medal – 2:42 down on Danielle – after a difficult year following surgery in March.

“The course was quite challenging and it was a little disconcerting because of the conditions to figure out where to go,” adds the Aucklander, who has also previously won the 2013 U23 gold medal, 2015 open gold and 2017 open bronze medal at these championships. “It was hard to get into much of a rhythm but I worked hard and I am pleased to come away with a medal.”

New Zealand’s outstanding strength in depth in women’s surf ski racing was further illustrated as the 2015 World bronze medallist Rachel Clarke claimed eighth – 7:11 behind the gold medal winner.

Elsewhere, New Zealand produced a number of other highly creditable performances on an overcast day in Brittany as Samalulu Clifton placed fifth in the women’s under-23 race. The Aucklander finished 7:55 down on Australia’s gold medal winner Jemma Smith (1:46:59), but it was a top-quality display, which bodes well for the future.

In the men’s junior race, Australian-based Kiwi Ben Regan also showed great promise to place sixth. Ben completed the 22km distance 9:11 behind South Africa’s race winner Ulvard Hart (1:40:36) and can be proud of his accomplishments.

South Africa’s Sean Rice (1:34:15) was crowned men’s open champion with Cory Taylor, the top-placed Kiwi, in 16th – 6:54 behind the gold medallist. Taylor’s countryman Sam Mayhew was 32nd (14:49).

Toby Brooke was the top Kiwi finisher in the men’s under-23 race, placing 16th – 9:11 down on the race winner Joshua Fern of South Africa (1:39:05). New Zealand’s Timothy Waller placed 24th – 11:39 adrift.

For full race results –

Image: Danielle McKenzie on her way to the open women’s title at the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Brittany, France
Article: Steve Landells