Olympic dream stolen away
A promising young kayaker’s dreams of going to the Olympics have been threatened after his custom-made, $4500 kayak was stolen from a riverbank yesterday.
Without the kayak, Zack Mutton will not be able to race in the team trials for the New Zealand canoe slalom team, missing out on vital points needed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mutton has been kayaking since before he could walk and has been aiming to go to the Olympics for as long as he can remember.
For the past month Mutton has been training for the New Zealand team trials, the first step to qualifying for the Olympics.
The kayak was taken after Mutton finished training yesterday at Okere Falls, near Rotorua.
He had left the craft on the riverbank when he went to get his car. When he returned it was gone.
“I was gutted,” Mutton said. “Next week is the team trials for the national team. It’s significant because we have to qualify top three in New Zealand to go and race in the world championships. If I’m not able to race I miss out on points for the Olympics.
“I’ve trained for the last few years to get there. It’s my whole life.”
The 3.5m kayak was made for him in the Czech Republic a month ago.
“This was custom-made for me. Every kayak is cut to the style of the paddler, the weight of the paddler, the personal preference of the paddler.
“It’s useless to others but it’s priceless to me.”
Mutton said having to race in a different kayak would affect his performance.
“It could be the difference between winning or coming dead-last.
“The Olympics have been a goal ever since I was very, very young. I was ranked number three in the world this year.”
The carbon, black kayak retails at roughly $4500 and Mutton said it would be easily recognisable if someone used it or tried to resell it.
Mike Dawson, who competed in canoe slalom in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, has been training with Mutton and said he could succeed on the national and global stage.
In 2017 Mutton placed eighth in the K1 at the World Junior Canoe Slalom Championships.
At last year’s championships, in his last year of eligibility for the under-18 class, he finished fifth in the highly competitive K1 final.
Dawson said getting the kayak to Mutton had been a challenge in itself.
“He’s spent the whole season trying to get a kayak that fits him right.”
It was bought from a company in the Czech Republic which usually has a six-month waiting list but they rushed Mutton’s boat through production and sent it to Holland before it made its way to New Zealand.
Dawson said the theft of the kayak would hamper Mutton’s Olympic hopes but not make them impossible.
Canoe Slalom New Zealand chief executive Graeme Maw said the theft was shocking.
“Zack is one of the top juniors in the world. This year he moves into the senior competition and next week’s competitions are the selection for this year’s world championships. This year’s world championships are kind of the gateway to the Olympic Games.
“If people know anything we’d be incredibly grateful. He’s a tremendous young man as well as a very good kayaker.”
Zack Mutton's custom-made, $4500 kayak has been stolen. Zizi Sparks