Caitlin Regal was crowned New Zealand’s newest Olympic champion on an historic day at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Lisa Carrington also extended her magnificent Olympic legacy on Tuesday in Tokyo, then teamed up with Caitlin to add to the proud history of kayaking gold medallists from this country.
Ambitious sporting dreams came to magnificent fruition in the Japanese capital, as the New Zealand Canoe Racing team achieved two gold medals in the space of 72 minutes.
Carrington brilliantly claimed the K1 200m – her third successive Olympic triumph in the sprint event – before teaming up with Regal for a dominant performance in the K2 500m, as they prevailed over a strong field.
It represents the greatest day for the sport in modern history. The achievements take Carrington into a new stratosphere. With five medals (four gold and one bronze), the Ohope paddler is New Zealand’s most successful female Olympian, while only fellow kayaker Ian Ferguson can match her tally of gold medals.
The 32-year-old is also the second Kiwi, after rower Hamish Bond, to win three successive Olympic golds.
Carrington clocked 38.120 seconds in the K1 200m, a new Games record, finishing almost half a boat length ahead of her nearest rival.
The K2 500m final was equally impressive, as Carrington and Regal established an early lead, before a late burst to seal their dominance. Their time of 1.35.785 also bettered the previous Olympic best, as they finished almost a second ahead of Poland.
Tuesday was a gruelling mental and physical test for Carrington, and a logistical challenge for the wider team, as she faced four races in a little over three hours.
But the years of training, planning and organisation paid off in spectacular fashion.
“There is always a plan but it’s a different thing to execute it,” Carrington told Sky TV. “It was a huge challenge to be able to stick to that plan through the day and I’m just so fortunate to have Caitlin as such an amazing teammate. To be able to go out there with someone and do what we just did…I’m just super proud of her and our team, because our team have worked so hard as well.”
Regal’s emotions were hard to hold back, as the 29-year-old processed the enormity of the moment.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Regal told Sky TV. “It’s a testament to the day, the team and the planning. We had to bundle together and do what we do on a daily basis. I’m so proud of Lisa, really keeping cool among the massive day.”
Carrington was flawless in the K1 200m final. She was the favourite, but it was an extremely strong line up and slightly tricky conditions, as the wind created chop on the water.
But Carrington peaked when it really mattered.
She made a perfect start in lane five, lunging ahead of her rivals in the first few strokes, and built an early lead, which was always going to be unassailable.
Spain’s Teresa Portela claimed second (38.883), 0.763 behind Carrington with Emma Aastrand Jorgensen (Denmark) managing 38.901 for bronze.
After brief celebrations with her team and then the medal ceremony, Carrington rushed back to begin warming up with Regal.
The duo faced a formidable field, with two Hungarian crews, including five-time Olympic champion Danuta Kozak, and experienced combinations from Germany and Poland, among others.
But the 2017 world champions exploded from the start, at one point reaching 22km/hr in the early stanza.
They maintained their advantage through the middle section, before a surge extended their lead in the last 150 metres. Carrington glanced left and right as they crossed the line, before a celebratory smile as their accomplishment sunk in.
They clocked 46.27 for the first 250m – 0.69 ahead of the Polish crew of Karolina Naja and Anna Pulawska – crossing the line 0.968 seconds in front of the Europeans (1:36.753), with Kozak and Dora Bodonyi (Hungary) third in 1:36.867
Earlier on Tuesday Carrington clocked an Olympic record time of 38.127( lowering it again in the final) to win her semi-final. An hour later she teamed up with Regal in the second K2 500m semi-final, the pair rocketing across the course in a Games record mark of 1:36.724, before improving it again in the decider.
Carrington and Ryan are in action again on Wednesday, with the K1 500m heats scheduled from 10:40am local time (1:40pm NZT) and the quarter finals between 3:50pm and 4:11pm NZT.
In other action on Tuesday, Alicia Hoskin and Teneale Hatton continued their steady improvement with a sixth place in the B final of the K2 500m.
The scratch combination, whose main focus in Tokyo is the K4 500m event, had their best race of the regatta so far, clocking 1:41.121.
The New Zealand duo made a good start and stayed with the pack for the most of the race, finishing 2.646 seconds behind the leading Belgium crew.
Their time represented a significant jump from their semi-final, where they managed 1:44.119 to finish seventh.