Before leaving for Europe, Canoe Racing NZ General Manager of Performance, Nathan Luce admitted it was a stressful time for the team, with no boats confirmed for the upcoming Olympics or Paralympics. Four weeks on from the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships, where the New Zealand team won three gold medals and qualified an impressive five Olympic and Paralympic quotas, Luce is feeling slightly more at ease.
“It is exciting to know that the four women’s quota spots we have secured allows us to field entries into all the women’s kayaking events in Paris, and that Scott (Martlew) has also qualified his spot at the Paralympics.,” said Luce. “But there is still unfinished business.”
The focus now moves to qualifying a K2 for both the men and women, and the paracanoe disciplines, as CRNZ aims to send their largest team ever to 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics.
On reflection, there is no doubt that it was a successful campaign for the team; three world titles, the history-making women’s K4, paddlers setting PBs, and every crew contesting against the best in the world.
But what Luce is most proud of is the strength and comradery of the team, both off and on the water. “Every person there – staff and athletes, added something and made the team what it was.”
All three paracanoe athletes achieved A final spots, with Scott Martlew finishing fourth in his KL2 200m event and securing his paralympic berth.
“Peter Cowan and Corbin Hart just came up short of the top six qualification criteria,” says Luce. “There were incredibly strong fields in both their races, but they showed they are at the level they need to be.”
Peter and Corbin have another opportunity to qualify for the Paris Paralympics at World Cup one in Szeged in May next year.
The depth in the women’s squad is exciting, not just for this cycle but for years to come, and Luce is still buzzing after the Women’s K4 win. “Winning a K4 World Championship title was a massive accomplishment not only for the programme but for the sport. It was the first time it’s ever been won, men’s or women’s, by a non-European country. It is even more amazing when you know that three out of the four paddlers in the boat are under 23 years old.”
Dame Lisa Carrington added two more K1 world championship gold medals (200m and 500m) to her name, bringing her count to an unbelievable 15 world championship titles. She will be looking to defend her Olympic K1 500m gold medal in Paris. The K1 200m event, of which she has 3 consecutive Olympic golds, is no longer an Olympic discipline.
Aimee Fisher and Danielle McKenzie showed they are an exciting combination finishing eighth overall in the women’s K2 500m.
“We knew with such short preparation time that it was a long shot,” says Luce. “But they showed the calibre of athletes that they are. And they nearly pulled it off.”
Luce says what they achieved is nothing short of impressive. “Danielle had never raced at an international sprint event before, but the pair made the A final and were less than half a second off qualifying for the Olympics.”
New Zealand is aiming to qualify a K2 at the Oceania Championships in Australia in February to get the maximum six female paddlers to Paris 2024.
The Kiwi contingent was understandably gutted for the K4 men, who missed out on an A final spot despite having the seventh fastest semi-final time, which ended their K4 Olympic qualification hopes.
But Luce states they have so much to be proud of. “Their improvement over the past year has been staggering, and we must give credit to Craig (Mustard, Lead Men’s Coach) and the entire men’s squad for the work they have done. They paddled world class times at this regatta, but in this event the margins are so small, and they fell on the wrong side of the margins.”
“While they were obviously incredibly disappointed, they are professionals and know there are more opportunities for them.”
The goalposts now shift to securing men’s K2 quota spots in February.
Luce emphasises that there is now a strong internal belief within the men’s squad that they are capable of not just competing but fighting for medals on the international stage and this will drive them over the next 10 months.
Currently, the athletes are taking a short break after a busy international campaign, while the coaches and staff review and reflect.
“We are not taking these results for granted, and we will continue to be looking for improvements and to go faster. But we know that as a team we can do something really special next year.”
NZ Team Results from 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships
Gold – Lisa Carrington, K1 Women 200m
Gold- Lisa Carrington – K1 Women 500m
Gold – Lisa Carrington, Alicia Hoskin, Olivia Brett, Tara Vaughan – K4 Women 500m
4th- Scott Martlew- KL2 Men 200m
7th- Quaid Thompson – K1 Men 5000m
8th – Aimee Fisher, Danielle McKenzie – K2 Women 500m
9th- Corban Hart, KL3 Men 200m
9th- Peter Cowan, VL3 Men 200m
11th- Ashton Reiser- K1 Men 500m
13th- Max Brown, Zac Ferkins, Kurtis Imrie, Hamish Legarth- K4 Men 500m
13th- Danielle McKenzie- K1 Women 5000m
19th- Ashton Reiser- K1 Men 200m
19th- Quaid Thompson- K1 Men 1000m
World Championship Daily Wrap-ups and results: