Olympics: Golden kayaker keeps her cool

By Dylan Cleaver

Lisa Carrington with her gold after winning the final of the K1 200m women's sprint. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Lisa Carrington with her gold after winning the final of the K1 200m women's sprint. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Should they be stood alongside each other in a shopping mall, you wouldn't necessarily think Usain Bolt and Lisa Carrington had a lot in common. But stick them on a start line together and it's a different story.

"She's just so composed on the start line. You watch Usain Bolt and he's enjoying the environment, he loves it," her coach Gordon Walker said. "She loves it, she enjoys it too. Because of that, [the enormity of the moment] is not a threat."

Carrington cut a relaxed figure on the start line at Eton Dorney on Saturday night, in complete contrast to the furious 44.638s that followed.

Carrington dominated her rivals as much as you can in a 200m dash, leading in Ukrainian Inna Osypenko-Radonska and three-time Olympic champion Natasa Douchev-Janics of Hungary.

The nerves were there, Carrington said, they were just well hidden.

"I've been working on that for the past year, preparing for that pressure."

In a campaign that left nothing to chance, Carrington spent time with Hamish Carter, talking about dealing with the moment. In 2000, triathlon favourite Carter got it very wrong; four years later in Athens he conquered his demons in unforgettable style.

Walker has spent time in the lead-up with coaches who have mentored teams or athletes to the pinnacle. He talked with Carter's coach Chris Pilone and Sir Graham Henry.

That shared knowledge contributed to a good night's kip on Friday for Carrington.

"I went straight to sleep and was quite calm. Gordy mentioned to me [on the morning of the final] that I didn't look nervous and was really calm."

Saturday night, local time, might have been a different story. Asked if she planned another early night, her response was emphatic: "Hell, no."

Carrington came to the sport through the usual channel of surf lifesaving. She started taking it seriously during her final year at Whakatane High School, having been selected in the national team for the junior world champs.

If that was a big moment in her choice of career, it took until May last year at a world cup meeting in Duisburg, Germany, for her to realise she had made the right choice.

"It's not that long ago, but from then on I've been fully committed and fully into this."

Walker described Carrington's performance as dominant.

"But how did she do that? That's the important question: how did she put herself in a position to be able to dominate that race? You have to come in with a really positive mindset, embrace it and enjoy it."

You could argue that those qualities are inherent in a person's make-up, but Walker said there were ways of preparing for it.

"It takes many things to be a great champion, not just strength and power. Most champions are fairly smart and can get themselves out of difficult situations."

It might just be that Carrington had a bit of extra help, too. In Munich this year, a Maori pendant slipped from her neck and made its way to the lake floor. When her parents, Glynis and Pat, flew to the Olympics, they brought a replacement.

"It has some pretty special meaning. It's from home so it's always good to bring a piece of home with me.

"Mum and dad organised this and flew it over for me. It's been made in Gisborne where my dad's from and blessed by a kaumatua down there. It's pretty special. You don't feel so lonely out there when you've got this."

- NZ Herald

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