Paddlers outstanding at Karapiro

Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie. Photos: Georgia Schofield.

Top performing paddlers continue battling it out on Lake Karapiro today after a glittering performance yesterday.

Tokyo-bound paddlers Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie enjoyed a day of perfect preparation in their Olympic quest by starring as the headline performers on day one of the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships at a sun-drenched Lake Karapiro on Friday.

Max and Kurtis – who are selected for the K2 1000m in Japan – secured gold and silver in a titanic tussle in the open men’s K1 1000m A Final before the pair united in their specialist event to clinch gold and crown a successful day.

The open men’s K1 1000m promised to be one of the races of the regatta and it more than lived up to expectations with a classic three-way battle.

Max made his trademark aggressive start off the start line but by midway little could separate the Whanganui paddler, Kurtis Imrie and Quaid Thompson, the 2019 national champion, as the trio seized control of the race.

However, drawing from his rich endurance reserves, Max slowly edged clear of the opposition in the final 250m and despite a late burst of acceleration from Kurtis, Max stood firm to win by 0.62 in a time of 3:33.96. Thompson of the Poverty Bay club also produced a good performance to take bronze in 3:35.48 with 35-year-old veteran Fred Teear (Arawa) back in fourth (3:39.42).

Max Brown. Photo: Georgia Schofield.

“I’ve a bit emotional, I’ve only ever won gold medals in team boats at nationals, so it is quite special for me to win my first individual title,” says Max. “I always feel like I add lots of value in the crew boats, but it is cool to win the single.

“The race went perfectly. The sun was directly in my eyes and I couldn’t see anything the whole race. I had to go purely off feeling and pacing, which is something I’ve been trying to do more. I tend to go out too hard, so I’ve been looking to be more consistent. I got to 200m to go, and thought; I am going to win this. It was lovely.”

Max and Kurtis later combined to bring the curtain down on the day one action with an outstanding performance in the K2 1000m final.

The duo were challenged for the first half of the race by CRNZ training partners Ben Duffy and Hamish Legarth but simply proved too strong in the second half of the race to accelerate to victory in a slick 3:19.15. Hamish and Ben, who had defeated Max and Kurtis at Blue Lake 2 in December, produced a quality display but had to settle for silver (3:27:45).

What should not go unrecognised was the quality performance delivered by two-time World Championship para-canoeist medallist Scott Martlew, who alongside Ben McCallum secured a brilliant bronze in 3:34.14.

Kurtis was delighted with his and Max’s all-round efforts today, which puts them in prime position in the countdown to the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m pretty happy with how the day has gone,” he explains. “Max got me (in the K1 1000m) but I’m over the moon for him. Looking at my (K1) race I probably executed my best race in a long time. The K2 was a quality field, so I’m pretty happy come away with it. We have good fitness going into the Games, so we can’t ask for anything better.

Aimee Fisher. Photo: Georgia Schofield.

Aimee Fisher claimed her first national individual title for four years with a dominant display in the open women’s K1 500m final. The Hawkes Bay paddler and three-time World Championships representative quickly opened up a gap on the field and stopped the clock in 1:49.62 to secure gold.

Behind, a field of young, promising largely U23 paddlers was led by Lucy Matehaere (Otago) who secured silver in 2:01.08 – 0.77 clear of the fast-finishing Emma Kemp (Mana), who grabbed bronze.

“It was a really good race,” says Aimee. “We were missing a couple of key players (with Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Ryan and other elite women taking part in the K4 Olympic Trials this week) but I just went out there with the goal of wanting to paddle beautifully. I’ve been working really hard on a few technical elements. I was trying to chase art out on the water and light up my lane and I felt like I managed to do that today.”

The action continues today at Lake Karapiro from 11am. The highlight of Saturday will be a keenly contested battle in the open’s men’s K1 500m.

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