Canoeist keen to make splash

By gary.hamilton-irvine@dailypost.co.nz, Gary Hamilton-Irvine


Like most aspiring athletes in alternative sports, canoeist Benn Gibb has his sights firmly set on the Olympics.

Gibb, who trains and lives at Okere Falls, is making a name for himself in white water kayaking's C1 discipline where he is ranked among the best in New Zealand.

The 21-year-old today races in the Oceania champs in the Manawatu where he is sitting pretty to be selected as one of three New Zealand representatives for up-coming international races.

He got off to a blinding start in 2013, gaining points for New Zealand selection when he came third overall and first out of the Kiwis in Kawerau last weekend, which saw about 18 international paddlers competing.

"My focus [this weekend] is to hold out the ranking for the selection I have at the moment and put some pressure on the Aussie guys and have a good run."

He said if he could do that, he would look ahead to the World Cup starting in May and then the biggest event in 2013 - the world champs in September.

Gibb explained the main difference between white water kayaking's two disciplines - K1 and C1 - was C1 involves paddling with half an oar and sitting on your knees in the canoe.

Gibb grew up in Tauranga and started white water kayaking in his first year at Tauranga Boys' College. Since leaving school he decided to move to Rotorua and focus solely on the C1 discipline, which is included at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"I've lived in Rotorua for about two and a half years now. I moved here for the training facilities, there is not really anywhere else like it where you can train, apart from Palmerston North."

He said some white water athletes would do their training on flat water such as lakes, but if you wanted to compete against the top guys in Europe you had to be training on white water.

"It is a European-dominated sport," he said. "A lot of those guys come down here at this time of the year to catch our summer and train."

Gibb said this weekend's Oceania champs would include top competitors from Australia, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the USA.

He said in any C1 race there were between 18 and 25 gates which you must pass through, six of which are upstream.

He said missing a gate meant a big time penalty.

Gibb is self-funded and works part-time to help pay his way around the world.

His brother, Callum Gibb, is also a kayaker living in Wellington, who represents New Zealand in the K1 class.

Waiariki Academy of Sport paddler and Olympian Mike Dawson will not feature at the Oceania champs this weekend as he is still recuperating from a broken back suffered during an accident in a Chilean river late last year.

In his absence, Rotorua's Aaron Osborne is leading the New Zealand selection for the K1, after a good run in Kawerau last weekend.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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