New Zealand kayakers have stormed to their best-ever World Cup performance, collecting four gold medals after some team boat heroics on the final day of the opening event of the season in Portugal.
A day after Caitlin Ryan’s upset K1 500m victory, Aimee Fisher and Lisa Carrington paired up to win a dramatic K2 200m and 500m double just 50 minutes apart, before linking with fellow Olympians Ryan and Kayla Imrie to capture the K4 500m crown near the end of proceedings.
Capping a remarkable three days at the Montemor-o-Velho venue, New Zealand’s younger paddlers also recorded a flurry of final appearances, leaving the team delighted.
“The sport’s just growing so much and it’s pretty crazy to think it was back in 2015 that we won our first gold medal in the K4 here,” Fisher said. “To come home with four gold medals is just a dream run.”
Carrington and Fisher were 0.689secs clear of Portugal’s Joana Vasconcelos and Francisca Laia in the K2 200m final, with Imrie and Briar McLeely fourth behind Ukraine’s Anastasiia Todorova and Anastasiya Horlova.
They barely had time to dry off, accept their medals and stand for the national anthem before they were straight back in action, backing up in the K2 500m to win in 1:41.706.
That was nearly 3 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Joana Vasconcelos and Francisca Laia (1:44.530) with the young Hungarian pair of Noémi Lucz and Zsófia Szenasi third in 1:46.066. New Zealand’s second boat of Kim Thompson and Rebecca Cole were right in the thick of the pack in seventh in 1:47.730, something which pleased Carrington just as much.
“We didn’t go out there to win gold medals, we went out there to put in some strong performances and work together as a team, so we are very proud of how it went,” Carrington said.
It’s the first time Carrington - the multiple world and Olympic champion - has been in a team boat at this level since the 2012 London Olympics, but she realised after Rio de Janeiro that she needed a fresh challenge.
“Aimee’s got some incredible boat skills so when we got in, we gelled pretty quickly. We’re at an incredible level but it’s early days. I haven’t paddled a K2 at this level since London so it’s been amazing to be here on top of the podium.”
The K4 victory was much tighter but just as sweet, with the Kiwi quartet holding off the challenge from Ukraine, who finished a spot ahead of them in fourth at last year’s Olympics.
Imrie, Fisher, Carrington and Ryan flew home in 1:32.105, with Ukraine just 0.422secs behind and a young Hungarian team third in 1:35.077.
New Zealand’s second boat of Thompson, McLeely, Cole and Britney Ford were sixth in an impressive 1:38.954.
The ICF canoe sprint World Cup now heads to Szeged in Hungary next weekend, with the New Zealand team returning afterwards to prepare for the world championships in August.Rio 2016 Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Caitlin Ryan Aimee Fisher Lisa Carrington Kayla Imrie Kim Thompson Rebecca Cole Canoe/Kayak - Sprint