First love calling Walker

By Kelly Exelby


After a tantalising taste of the Olympics, paddler Mike Walker wants more, and he's heading back to his first love to further his ambitions.
Walker is heading to the New Zealand surf lifesaving nationals in Gisborne this week, having join ed the Mount Maunganui club af ter moving down here with his wife and young daughter following the Beijing Games.
The 31-year-old began his surf career with Omanu in 1997, and won the open ski race title in 2001 after joining Muriwai.
And he would love to enjoy that feeling all over again.
"I've been doing a little bit with the surf club, get ting down there after work four nights a week and maybe once on Saturday,' Walker said.
"I'm not really in what I'd call peak condition but I'm going along for a bit of fun and to be part of a team again.
"I've got good memories of surf lifesaving with Omanu, and then Muriwai when we had quite a strong team, although the last couple of seasons I was nearly the only senior left so this weekend will be interesting."
Walker and Steven Ferguson finished sixth in the final of the K2 at the Olympics and both have already indicated they're keen to have another crack at the games in London in 2012.
However, Walker has put for ward a few provisos.
"I've got a few goals to achieve before I commit to another three years.
"I need to make a step up in my own K1 times _ I want to improve five seconds over 1000m _ so I'll give myself a six-month time frame for that.
"I'll start training properly in October and then go from there."
At the moment he's found work building, enjoying fatherhood and rediscovering the surf movement.
Mount have a boutique team of senior men heading to the nationals, which start on Friday, but have plenty of quality with the likes of board stars Andrew Newton and Nathan Henderson.
Australian-based Henderson joins a flood of athletes coming from out of town to bolster the Mount ranks, with Alice Towgood also recrossing the Tasman and Lisa Carrington, Johanna O'Connor and Danelle Snowden heading in from Auckland.
While Papamoa and Omanu look strong in the junior ranks, Mount have several advantages which could push them close to the overall club title they last won at Midway two years ago.
Teenage speed queen Chelsea Maples again has a packed schedule, competing in a minimum of 14 events in her last year at under-19 level.

She's also heading off to the Australian nationals on Monday, hoping to repeat her excellent recent success in the board and sprints.
The strong Mount boat crews also may be key, after dominating the recent national surf boat series.
Other points of interest at the nationals will be Hawke's Bay star Daniel Moodie's drive for a fourth consecutive ironman title, Morgan Foster's hunt for his 10th national flags title and a stacked women's ski field.
Another Hawke's Bay product, New Zealand team member Nikki Cox, last year collected five gold medals including the board, ski and ironwoman titles.
Omanu, meanwhile, have a strong squad assembled for the masters titles, which will be held tomorrow.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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