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