It’s a very big holiday weekend for local white rafters as they compete at the New Zealand Championships on rivers round the region – the Kaituna, Tarawera and Rangitaiki.
There is a lot at stake. The event doubles as selection for the 2013 IRF White Water World Championships on the same spectacular rivers, in November, next year.
The Okere Ladies are favourites to take out the Open Women’s category. The crew is stacked with former world champions including Nikki Kelly and Denise (Buba) Martin who won the gold medals a remarkable four times – 1999-2001 and 2003. They are excited to be racing at home in front of friends and family.
“It’s also about the opportunity to win gold, says Nikki Kelly. “I’m a very competitive person and gutted anytime we come up short.”
Local and international paddlers will take part in the pre-worlds event, this weekend, including teams from the Czech Republic, Australia and Japan. “We are really enjoying being here,” say Takuya Ikeda from Team Teikei Japan. “We did nine runs on our first practice day on the Kaituna, though we flipped twice and broke two paddles.”
On Friday October 19 the short, sharp Sprint and Head to Head races are on the Kaituna. “The Kaituna, is deep and narrow with drops and lots going on,” says Rotorua-based rafter, Nick Chater, who will be competing this weekend and knows the rivers of the region very well. “There are opportunities to make distinct choices about lines and push people off theirs.”
On Saturday, October 20 the Slalom is in Kawerau on the Tarawera. “This is the easiest of the sections and the course designer will be able to make the course tight and technical,” continues Chater.
The finale will be the Downriver race on the Rangitaiki, on Sunday October 21. “The Rangitaiki is technical and very busy, with a flat section in the middle, and the team that wins this will need to be a good all-rounders, able to make good lines choices, be technically very good and have huge fitness,” says Chater.
The Downriver is for the most points and usually determines the titles. This year it will also determine who races on home water at the World Championships. “These rivers are all distinctly different,” adds Chater. “To have all three within an hour of Rotorua and with the support and experience that Rotorua has in hosting international events and hosting visitors means the World Championships next year have the potential to be the best ever.”
Around 50 crews are expected to travel to New Zealand in November, next year – 30 men’s and 20 women’s teams. They will come from all over the world including the traditional powerhouses of white water rafting from Central Europe, Japan and South America.
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