Mount Maunganui teenager Claudia Paterson won a silver medal at the Australian Open canoe slalom championships in Sydney.
The 16-year-old was the only New Zealand team member to get a place on the podium throughout the event last weekend, finishing second behind Slovakia's Sona Stanovska in the under-18 women's division ahead of Australian Kira Wall. The success was a confidence boost.
"I was two placings away from making the semifinal in the open-age event so that was really encouraging too, especially as I felt I didn't race as well as I could have in the second run."
Along with the rest of the Kiwi squad, Paterson will now stay on in Sydney to get some more training on the Olympic white-water course before competing in the Oceania Champs from February 20.
Read more: Rugby: Shift to Bay well worth it for Tiatia
The former Bethlehem College student is now doing her schooling through Te Aho O Te Kura Pounamu, the New Zealand correspondence school, so aside from two sessions a day on the demanding course she is also starting her Year 12 studies while overseas.
"Studying by correspondence doesn't really mean I do any more training, but I can balance sport and schoolwork better. I miss seeing my friends at school, but it is better than falling behind too much every time I go away," she said.
When back home in Omanu she trains about 12 to 14 times a week - flatwater technique sessions on the stream in the Judea industrial area, whitewater training at Okere Falls, running up the steps on the Mount and strength training at Global Fitness.
Paterson says she has also learned a lot from Bay Sports Med's Dr Pat Wigley about high performance.
"Racing well is about more than just the kayaking.
"It's also about nutrition and sleep and planning your travel well and so on - things that sound pretty basic but which are not always easy to put into practice."
The hard work paid off this week, with Claudia selected for the New Zealand junior team in two canoe slalom disciplines: K1, where the paddler sits in the kayak using a paddle with two blades, and C1, which is propelled from a kneeling position with a one-bladed paddle.
In July, she will travel to Poland to compete in the junior world championships - her first time at such a large competition.
The Bay of Plenty remains the strongest canoe slalom centre in the country, with 16 other paddlers from the region selected to join New Zealand representative teams in Olympians Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones, plus Callum Gilbert, Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer, James Thwaite, Jack Dangen, Oscar McBurney, Callum Aitken, Zack Mutton, Anna Higgins, Jane Nicholas, Kaydi O'Connor-Stratton, Haylee Dangen, Kelly Travers and Courtney Williams.
The athletes will compete in the 5 Race World Cup Series in Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovenia from June to September.