Olympic dream stolen away

Weekend Herald - - News - Ro­torua Daily Post

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.”

Photo / Stephen Parker

Zack Mut­ton's cus­tom-made, $4500 kayak has been stolen. Zizi Sparks

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