Top New Zealand extreme kayaker Mike Dawson has received a major boost as he recovers from an horrific accident in Chile.
Dawson and his fellow Olympic whitewater slalom paddler Luuka Jones have been awarded a combined $135,000 for their 2013 seasons, following a fundamental change in the way public funding is distributed to Kiwi athletes.
High Performance Sport New Zealand yesterday announced they would fund six individuals, as well as major national sporting bodies, as they target Olympic medals and world championship success. The money will be allocated to the national sporting organisation but largely ring-fenced for the individual athletes and their campaigns.
"This is the best possible news," Dawson said. "It's going to allow us to run a far better campaign during 2013 and onwards to Rio and will mean we'll have more access to sports science, recovery and medical facilities, logistical support and international facilities for training. It's definitely a step forward to medals in 2016."
The news was timely for Dawson, less than 10 days after surviving a near-drowning after slipping and falling into the freezing Trancura River after racing at the Whitewater Grand Prix extreme event in Chile.
He spent two days in intensive care and, while there, medical staff also found a small stress fracture in his back, ruling him out of all paddling until February at the earliest. He's abandoned plans to spend the festive season in Europe and is instead heading home to Tauranga tomorrow to begin treatment.
"I'm currently working on a rehabilitation plan for my back injury which will allow me to break down my technique right to the basics, so I can return to the water in February. We're also working on recruiting an international coach to help with this and contracting them for the next four years, right up until Rio."
Dawson finished 15th at the London Olympic and Jones was 14th. Both now know what they need to do to improve for the next Games in Rio in 2016 and the continuity the extra funding ensures is invaluable.
It also means Dawson won't have to push his body to the limits. He competed in and won a number of extreme races around the globe in the buildup, using the prizemoney to help fund his Olympic campaign.
"I guess I won't have to race quite so many extreme races the next time around and still won't compromise my ability to pay for a long overseas campaign, which really should save my body and extend my career," he said. "In saying that, I love the extreme races so I may not be giving up on them completely."
Others to benefit from the HPSNZ funding change include teenage golfer Lydia Ko, Taekwondo exponent Vaughan Scott, top surfer Paige Hareb and boxer Alexis Pritchard.