Sport

Carrington paddles NZ to glory

LISA Carrington has powered New Zealand to its fifth gold medal of the London Olympic Games with a masterful demonstration of controlled aggression on Dorney Lake.

In around 100 strokes of her paddle she became the K1 200m discipline's inaugural gold medallist, eclipsing a field that included key rival Natasa Douchev-Janics of Hungary.

The 23-year-old Carrington held the sport's hopes in the grip of her paddle. She gave no indication of any pressure whatsoever as she kept her balance with slow, menacing strokes in the start gate. She got off to a flyer into a bracing headwind and, while others threatened her crown in the first 100m, they were pretenders by the end.

Carrington's technique was smooth and her legs pumped like pistons as she tore through the field to finish in 44.638s, 0.415s ahead of Ukrainian silver medallist Inna Osypenko-Radomska and 0.490s ahead of Douchev-Janics.

There was no fist pump or histrionics at the end - just a smile as wide as the Bay of Plenty she hails from and eventually a wave to Kiwis who had gathered hoping for history.

Carrington is the first woman to medal in a kayak for New Zealand and the first Kiwi gold medallist in the sport since the halcyon days of Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald in Seoul 24 years ago.

It is New Zealand's 13th medal at the Games, also matching the country's total haul set in Seoul.

With Carrington the face of the sport, Canoe Racing New Zealand should leverage extra government money for its high performance programme.

They received $4.3 million (5 per cent) of High Performance Sport New Zealand's total budget for this Olympic cycle but that investment has been on a contestable annual basis rather than as a targeted sport over the past four years.

CRNZ can argue they bettered the performance of the last Games. One medal and two finals trumps the fourth (Ben Fouhy, K1 1000m), sixth (Mike Walker, Steven Ferguson K2 1000m) and eighth (Ferguson, K1 500m) at Beijing. The athletes in those finals (32-year-old Ferguson accepted) are all relatively young. Erin Taylor is 25, Carrington 23 and Darryl Fitzgerald 22.

CRNZ high performance manager Grant Restall says they have a plan ready to execute if they can secure the necessary cash from the next round of HPSNZ funding, due around late November.

"Ideally we're trying to develop a high performance plan which will see us through to Rio 2016. Obviously the process is results-driven. It's not a bottomless pit but we feel we've done a reasonable job. We're aiming to get some consistent funding [as a targeted sport over the Olympic cycle] rather than just contesting annually. It's difficult to plan otherwise.

"We want to base it more on science by testing and tailoring it to individuals. We want to identify where athletes fit on a scale of excellence [along similar lines to rowing].

Restall says they're working on a CRNZ restructure: "A central model hasn't always worked that well overseas. Countries like Australia and Britain [who both got three medals at last year's world championships] have reverted to working on a regional basis. For instance, Australia's Olympic gold medal-winning K4 1000m crew are based on the Gold Coast while many of their sprinters [500m or less] are in Western Australia.

"We plan on having regional bases in Auckland, Gisborne and Christchurch. Our idea is to employ permanent coaches and give them autonomy so they can develop their own athletes."

There had been talk in canoeing circles CRNZ could consider options like entering the blue riband K4 1000m women's event next year. Such a theory involved combining Carrington, Taylor, Teneale Hatton and the next best paddler. Restall says they are only willing to persevere if they employ ruthless selection criteria.

"We must make sure everyone is capable of kayaking at that level, it's no good picking a fourth person just to make up a crew."

Fitzgerald has an interest in developing himself in the K1 classes next year to prove he's up to international standard. Ferguson's yet to make a decision on whether he will continue into a fifth Olympic cycle. He will continue as Piha Surf Club head coach.

Topics:  lisa carrington, london olympics



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