Kayaking: Taking solo route to the top

By Greg Taipari

Olympian Darryl Fitzgerald caused more than a ripple at this year's sprint champs on Lake Tikitapu at the weekend.

The two-day event, held in pristine conditions, gave Fitzgerald the opportunity to show he could be the man to step up to the mark in the men's K1 1000.

The 22-year-old, more identifiable for his deeds with K2 partner Steve Ferguson, says he wants to start making his name in the single seater. Winning five from five in the 1000m race, Fitzgerald hopes it will be enough for New Zealand selectors to take notice.

"I'm giving the K1 a go, it's been really great this weekend. I'm winning the spots; hopefully the selections are taken care of."

Paddling for Poverty Bay, Fitzgerald said it had been hard after the Olympics to get the motivation running again.

"I had a small break after the Olympics but when I got back into it, I don't know if it was the weather or the paddling but it was pretty hard my first regatta. I was pretty ho-hum. It was cold and I questioned myself what I was doing there.

But now, out in this weather and these conditions, it's not a problem. I love coming to this lake. Lets hope it's like this when we hold the nationals here in February."

With Ferguson taking a year off from kayaking and focusing on family and surf lifesaving, Fitzgerald said it was a great opportunity to get into the singles.

"I do the singles anyway but I'm keen to really have a crack at it this year."

The Olympian also had to adjust to a new boat so was pleased with the results.

"They don't make that type of boat anymore so I changed into one that you can get anywhere in the world. It's been a bit of a challenge but it's worked really well this weekend."

Fitzgerald raced the 1000m for the open men's K1 and the under-23 K1, taking out both divisions. Yesterday he raced in the 200m open men's K1 final, finishing third in a time of 39.84s, behind Scott Bicknell on 38.91s and Chris Nutsford on 39.71s.

He said it wasn't his favoured event but was keen to have a go at it and pleased with a top three finish.

The Gisborne paddler will now head back home to prepare for the New Zealand Nationals at Lake Tikitapu in February but was hoping to get some paddle time in Australia as well.

"I may go to Queensland if I can hook that up ... I'm hoping to get time in with some top guys before the international season, the European season."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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