Canoe Racing New Zealand's investment in big boats is about to pay off, with a 26-strong team arriving in Belarus for this week's canoe sprint junior world championships.
The team includes four K4 crews - men's and women's in both the under-23 and under-18 divisions - as well as K1 and K2 combinations.
The K4 crews recently trained on Lake Karapiro with the open women's K4 of Jamiee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie, who are about to make their Olympic debut at the Rio Olympics next week.
Taris Harker and Tim Waller from Tauranga are part of the men's under-23 K4 team.
"This will be the biggest team we've ever sent to a junior world championship and the presence of the K4 crews means we can expose more of our juniors to that level of competition," CRNZ chief executive Mark Weatherall said.
"As we've seen with our Olympic K4, it also allows us to bring a handful of paddlers through at the same level, constantly pushing each other and improving their paddling in a tight team environment."
The junior worlds are underway in Minsk, with both under-23 and under-18 women's K4s in action, along with the under-18 K1 and K2 men's boats.
Many of the paddlers have already had experience at worlds level, with 10 of last year's 18-strong team that raced in Portugal returning this year.
They include Briar McLeely and Rebecca Cole, who finished second in the B final of the under-23 K2 500m last year, after combining with Kim Thompson and Danielle Currie for New Zealand's best result, ninth in the K4 500m A final.
Kurtis Imrie also returns for his second year in the under-23 ranks, having finished fifth in the under-18 K1 1000m A final in 2014, while Thomas Cole, Shani Clark and Tess Allen will all compete in the under-18 ranks for the second year in a row.
The bulk of the team are fresh from three weeks in Tolmin, Slovenia, where they acclimatised and trained alongside several European nations.
With a six-strong New Zealand team competing in Rio, Weatherall is confident the junior contingent will provide the perfect lead-in, with many of the under-23 paddlers eyeing Olympic spots in Japan in 2020.
"Our juniors can clearly see a pathway now, from where they are at to the level of our Olympians. We'll be doing everything we can to help them reach their dreams over the next four years and beyond and we're hugely excited by the talent pool we're building."
New Zealand junior team:
Under-18: Women: Tess Allen (Mana), Rochelle Austin (North Shore), Shani Clark (Arawa), Samalulu Clifton (North Shore), Danielle Watson (Mana). Men: Quaid Thompson (Poverty Bay), Thomas Cole (Waitara), Ben Duffy (Arawa), Zach Ferkins (Poverty Bay), Jake Koekemoer (Arawa), Hamish Legarth (Hawke's Bay), Ethan Moore (Mana), Ashton Reiser (North Shore).
Under-23: Women: Rebecca Cole (North Shore), Britney Ford (Poverty Bay), Elise Legarth (Hawke's Bay), Briar McLeely (North Shore), Erica Tanner (Wanganui), Gemma Woolcock (Mana). Men: Max Brown (Wanganui), Taris Harker (BOP), Kurtis Imrie (Mana), Karl McMurtrie (North Shore), Tim Waller (BOP).
Coaching/management: Paul Fidow (coach/manager), Mark Watson (coach), Frederic Loyer (coach), Alison Pritchard (manager).