By David Leggat
Kurtis Imrie sat at home watching his big sister Kayla paddle for glory at the Rio Olympics; now he wants a taste of the biggest stage in sport in Tokyo next year.
In August, he will head to the world championships in Hungary with his K2 1000m partner Max Brown hoping to produce a performance to qualify a New Zealand quota spot for the Olympic Games.
They had an initiation into the top level at World Cup regattas earlier this year.
They finished eighth in the final in Poznan, and were in the B final at Duisberg. And they discovered there’s always lessons to be had no matter their finishing positions.
‘’For both of us it’s been our debut in the open class,’’ Wellington’s Imrie said.
‘’We went in not really knowing. We knew how fast we were going but not how we’d match up against everyone else.
‘’We’ve been training on our own. Last year we went out a little too hard and couldn’t hold on,’’ he said of their experience in the K2 and K4 at the under 23 world champs in Bulgaria, where they were third in the B finals.
‘’This year we’ve been getting the pacing a bit more. From those races we’re getting a bit more confident in each other that we can do something.’’
Not unlike big sister in fact.
Kayla Imrie, at 27 four years older than Kurtis, is part of the burgeoning women’s K4 quarter, also including multiple world and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Ryan and Aimee Fisher.
They needed time to gel and have now proved themselves right up to the elite level, finishing third and second at the last two worlds; you could say she has lit the fuse in her younger brother.
Kurtis Imrie got into surf lifesaving while at Newlands College and from the surf disciplines he moved into kayaking.
‘’To get better I went down to the local kayak club, and also followed Kayla. I gave it a go and liked it.’’
Wanganui paddler Brown was based in Wellington for a time, doing university studies and it was a happy meeting of the minds.
‘’We’ve really just come together in the k2 in the last year or so but have been focussed on it for the last 8-12 months. We feel we’ve made massive gains.’’
Brown sits in the front, Imrie in behind, or as Imrie puts it with a laugh ‘’I’m meant to be the powerhouse and he’s the brains of the boat’’.
Joining his sister in Tokyo would be a huge buzz.
‘’Watching her race at Rio gave me more of a drive, seeing someone in the same family be able to achieve something at a high level, why not?
‘’She came back from Rio and said it would be pretty cool if we were both at the next Olympics.
‘’It would be a proud moment for us, and our family.
‘’Why can’t I give it a go? I’ve learnt a lot from her, she keeps pushing forward and she helps me.
‘’So that’s the goal.’’
The men have a training camp in France and Imrie will contest the world under 23 K1 1000m and 500m in Romania, at the start of August. Then it’s onto the World Champs, starting on August 21, where a top six finish should guarantee a quota spot for New Zealand in the K2 1000m at the Olympic Games without having to go through last-chance regattas early next year.
‘’We’ll just go to the world champs and put up a performance and hopefully it’ll be good enough to qualify off the bat.’’
The Olympic dream is within his grasp, but he won’t be looking beyond what the pair can control.
‘’That’s how my mind is. Focus on what you’re doing during the race. Train hard, control what’s in my lane.’’
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Canoe/Kayak - Sprint