World Cup event chance to gauge abun­dance of women’s tal­ent in NZ

Weekend Herald - - WHAT’S ON - David Leg­gat

Lisa is a great ath­lete and qual­ity for any kind of team. She’s work­ing re­ally hard. Rene Olsen, na­tional women’s coach

New Zealand ca­noe­ing bosses will get a first look at the depth of women’s pad­dling when two K4 crews line up in a straight fi­nal at the world cup re­gatta in Por­tu­gal late tonight .

With women out­strip­ping men in terms of the de­vel­op­ment in the sport in this coun­try, eight pad­dlers are con­test­ing world cups this week­end and race next, in Szeged, Hun­gary, un­der the eye of na­tional women’s coach Rene Olsen.

The four- seater had a fine 2016, cul­mi­nat­ing in fin­ish­ing fifth in the Olympic fi­nal in Rio. Jaimee Lovett has since re­tired, but the other three re­main, with Lisa Car­ring­ton, three­time Olympic sin­gle- seat medal win­ner, step­ping in to good ef­fect.

“Lisa is a great ath­lete and qual­ity for any kind of team,” for­mer Dan­ish Olympic pad­dler Olsen said from Por­tu­gal. “She’s work­ing re­ally hard and she’s been good at putting her power into the boat.”

The women have been split into a se­nior and an up- and- com­ing four. There are solid ex­pec­ta­tions from the top four, com­pris­ing, in seat­ing or­der, Kayla Im­rie, Car­ring­ton, Aimee Fisher and Caitlin Ryan. But Olsen is also lik­ing what he’s see­ing from the ju­nior four, of Briar McLeely and Re­becca Cole from North Shore and Poverty Bay’s Kim Thomp­son and Brit­ney Ford.

He sin­gled out McLeely for spe­cial men­tion.

“She’s a re­ally strong pad­dler. She was very close to se­lec­tion for the big boat,” Olsen said.

“She’s def­i­nitely an ath­lete to watch over the next cou­ple of years and could be knock­ing on the door of the big boat re­ally fast.”

The think­ing at this stage is those fours will stay in­tact this sea­son. The younger group are also in line for the world un­der- 23 and ju­nior ( un­der- 18) cham­pi­onships in Ro­ma­nia in late July.

So what i s it about the young women pad­dlers right now? Where the men are strug­gling for qual­ity per­form­ers, there seems a rel­a­tive abun­dance in the women’s ranks.

“A cou­ple of things. First af­ter London there was a good Lisa Car­ring­ton ef­fect ( af­ter her K1 200m gold) on how many peo­ple were com­ing into the sport.

“And there was re­ally good com­mit­ment from those four to six other girls in the pro­gramme. Tar­get­ing that ( K4) crew made tran­si­tion look very easy for many girls com­ing on.

“Lisa was very good and [ it] seemed im­pos­si­ble to come up and beat her. To see crew boats go­ing so well made it eas­ier for Briar, Re­becca, Kim and Brit­ney to see a road for­ward.

“And you see it trick­ling down to the un­der- 18 team. Ali­cia Hoskin and Danielle Wat­son, are our best K1 ath­letes but will be tar­get­ing crew boats, K2 and K4 go­ing to­wards the un­der- 18 world cham­pi­onships. They are see­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties from work­ing hard to­gether.”

Olsen be­lieves Car­ring­ton is com­mit­ted to the K4 this year. Beyond that re­mains a wait and see ex­er­cise.

“She’s com­mit­ted to this year and if things go well my im­pres­sion is that she’s tar­geted to go fur­ther. But we have a re­ally strong women’s squad and our boat will be able to work around it [ if Car­ring­ton re­verts back to solo rac­ing].”

Car­ring­ton and Fisher, rated the sec­ond best solo sprint pad­dler be­hind the Olympic cham­pion, will con­test the 200m event at the Szeged re­gatta but most of the squad have two events this week­end.

That pair will con­test both the K2 200 and 500m; Im­rie and McLeely are also in the K2 200m; Cole and Thomp­son are do­ing the K2 500m while Ryan is in the K1 500m seat as well.

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