The New Zealand K2 1000m crew of Lisa Carrington and Teneale Hatton overcame a Fawlty Towers accommodation horror to win gold in their opening world cup race yesterday.
It was a mixed bag for the New Zealanders, with the young pair the highlight among some bad results and an embarrassing no-show. The pair were also in the 'A' final of the Olympic-distance K2 500m overnight.
The week did not start well for Carrington and Hatton, or any of the New Zealanders, for that matter. An accommodation snafu in the French city of Vichy saw them allocated to the lowest tier of hotel, when they thought they had booked the highest.
The beds were so dirty there was human hair littering the sheets and not the type of hair you'd visit Rodney Wayne for.
"There were cigarette burns, the rooms stank of smoke, the shower drains were all blocked; it wasn't conducive to a high-performance environment," said Wayne Maher, the team's high-performance manager.
The team were moved to better digs.
Conditions in Vichy have caused plenty of aggravation, with a petition started to try to have officials move next year's world championships away from there.
The course is on the Allier River and times have been fast. German Max Hoff won the K1 1000m in 3m 16.936s, more than seven seconds faster than the 3m 24.495s Ben Fouhy set in Poznan, Poland, four years ago. Carrington and Hatton smashed the world record by five seconds. Both will almost certainly be expunged from the record books.
"There has been torrential rain here and water has been pouring over a weir at the top of the course," Maher explained. "It's not international standard but the French are adamant that in August [the month of the 2011 world champs] they won't get these type of conditions."
There was no danger of the men's K4 1000m setting records. The crew of Darryl Fitzgerald, Fred Teear, Liam O'Loughlin and Mike Walker have spent weeks training at Lake Karapiro, but did not even make it to the start line in Vichy.
The official line from CRNZ is that Teear was sick, but the Herald understands that although he was ill with food poisoning, he was prepared to race. However, management and crew got the time for their heat wrong and they were scratched without paddling a stroke in anger.
Unless the K4 finds a way to stay longer than planned in Europe and race the third world cup meeting in Germany next month, they will have just one world cup race in Szeged, Hungary, to try prove they can be a force at elite level.
Highly touted pairing Steven Ferguson and Troy Burbidge also had a difficult start to their season, failing to qualify for even the 'B' final in the Olympic-distance K2 1000m.
Maher was not too perturbed by the pair's poor showing, saying they had drawn the outside lanes on the course, the worse affected by river currents.
They have also just taken ownership of a new boat, which will be faster in the long run, but is proving a bit more "tippy" as they get used to it.