After standing down from the men’s elite squad earlier this year following a mysterious heart condition some might have assumed it was the end of the kayaking road for Taris Harker.
But despite the huge personal disappointment of the five-time World Championship age-group representative no longer being a part of the programme, the nuggety Karapiro Kayak Racing Club athlete made a successful return to the sport at Blue Lake 2, finishing a highly-respectable fourth in the open men’s K1 200m event.
“I didn’t have too many expectations (at Blue Lake 2), it was more about getting back on the water and seeing what I could do. I was pretty surprised with my heat (which Taris won in ). In the final I would like to do a little better but with the nationals to come we’ll see what happens there.”
Picked up by the men’s elite squad in 2016, Taris moved to the elite squad in Auckland before they relocated to Cambridge under the coaching of Fred Loyer in 2018.
Taris featured in the men’s K4 500m team – alongside Max Brown, Kurtis Imrie and Ashton Reiser – which finished 12th overall at the 2018 World U23 Championships in Bulgaria but after taking a short break when he returned to training he discovered something was amiss.
“My heart rate was a lot higher than it should have been for the effort I was putting in,” explains Taris, who was born and raised in Christchurch before the family relocated to Tauranga following the 2011 earthquake. “I also saw my resting heart-rate was between 70 and 90 (beats per minute) which was abnormal as well and it got worse. After every session my heart-rate wouldn’t settle and every morning I woke up exhausted.”
His heart rate would spike to 120bpm for no apparent reason. He would feel hot and light-headed. He sought an answer from the doctors but despite receiving the very best medical support from HPSNZ finding an solution has so far proved elusive.
“The hardest part was sitting in the doctor’s office and asking when I would return to train and they said “I don’t know?”
After being decarded his former HPSNZ Life Advisor Nathan Twaddle helpfully quickly found him as a job as a quantity surveyor in Hamilton. Taking on work certainly eased the pain of no longer kayaking but after the heart issue began to settle down from the middle of this year he eased back into gentle kayak training from August.
Adopting a sensibly cautious approach the former surf lifesaver tries not to over-exert himself in training and if feeling excessively fatigued he will cut the sessions short. Linking up with former coach Scott Bicknell, Cambridge.based Taris eturned to full training six weeks ago. The Karapiro Kayak Club paddler has found the process hard having lost a lot of fitness and strength but he is also motivated for the future.
Blue Lake 2 was the first step on his road back with the 2020 National Championships also on the horizon.
So is the muscular paddler planning to focus on the 200m – an event he has enjoyed success at in the past?
“II haven’t fully decided,” he explains. “I think with Scott we might take a different approach to how I train in terms of miles and where we focus the training, to avoid any heart issues. It might be working on less distance (than in the past) but more intensity.”
He has not ruled out one day returning to the CRNZ training programme but he is not getting ahead of himself and is wisely adopting a sensible approach.
“Maybe in 2021, but my main focus is on myself and being healthy. The Nationals are only eight or nine weeks away and the boys will also get fitter and faster in that time, so we’ll just see how it goes.”
Words: Steve Landells
Image: Dscribe Photography