It’s a feeling that will stay with kayaker Jamiee Lovett always. That moment when she and the other three members of the New Zealand women’s K4 boat arrive at the start-line.
“It feels pretty cool pulling on the black singlet, putting the nose of the boat in the blocks, and just sitting there having the commentators call out your name and your country,” says Lovett, who will make her Olympic debut in Rio.
“And when you’re sitting on the line for New Zealand, it’s a pretty special feeling. I guess it’s not a feeling that many people get to experience. It’s one of the moments that I always remember, just the sense of calm. And I remember why I’m here and that I’m pretty lucky to be here.”
Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie make up the first New Zealand women’s four to compete at an Olympics, and the first Kiwi Olympic quad since the 1992 Barcelona Games.
The women admit it’s been a long, hard road to get the point where they’ve established a strong team environment. “We worked so hard at coming together as a team. It starts with just having the same goals and the same plans for where you want to be,” says Ryan, who came to canoeing from surf lifesaving four years ago.
In their bid for Rio, they built a team based on their individual strengths. Moving away from the traditional thinking of sticking four good paddlers together in a boat, they worked on combining their different strengths to produce the ultimate result.
“We have a mixture of sprinters and endurance paddlers in the boat together to maximise the boat’s full potential,” Ryan says.
It’s a concept that’s been embraced in Europe. The paddler at the front is explosive in order to get a strong start off the line. They also set the pace and rhythm for the rest of the team.
The two paddlers in the middle are the powerhouse of the boat. They need strength and endurance, and do a lot of heavy weights work in the gym to build on that. At the back of the boat, the fourth paddler must be a strong sprinter.
Where New Zealand is different from their counterparts is that they “paddle like the boys”: trying to reduce their number of strokes, and get maximum power from each stroke. This keeps the pressure on in the water – increasing catch and reducing drag. The lower stroke rate equates to less fatigue.
The crew has also worked hard to build a strong relationship and team culture. It’s not an easy feat, when you all come together as individual paddlers.
But they’ve found their strength in sharing the same uniting goal. They respect each other, and treat one another as the most important people in their lives. And they also ensure that amongst all the hard work, they have fun.
Rio 2016 Caitlin Ryan Jaimee Lovett Kayla Imrie Aimee Fisher Canoe/Kayak - Sprint