Kayaking: Fisher casting out but pain is a killer

By David Leggat

Aimee Fisher is branching out into other events. Photo / Jamie Troughton / Dscribe Media
Aimee Fisher is branching out into other events. Photo / Jamie Troughton / Dscribe Media

This is a good time to be a New Zealand woman kayaker.

Not only is Lisa Carrington, now with three Olympic medals, among the elite in the sport, but a tier of athletes below her are making an impact.

The K4 500m quartet finished fifth in Rio last year but they've broken up this year, which is a promising sign.

If that sounds odd, look at it this way: Jaimee Lovett, the stroke in Rio has just retired, while Caitlin Ryan and Aimee Fisher are branching into single and double seat racing.

They are teaming for a potentially strong K2 500m crew, while the plan is for Ryan to also race the K1 500m alongside Carrington, and for Fisher to do the same in the K1 200m.

There's a new K4 being assembled with Mana's Kayla Imrie the one survivor from Rio in that group.

At the recent nationals on Rotorua's Blue Lake, Fisher reaffirmed she is a talent to watch this year.

She won both the K1 200m and 500m titles. Carrington sat out those races but even so, the 22-year-old from Hastings reinforced the view that she is the best of the younger paddlers coming through.

"I was pretty surprised to win the 500. It's not my favourite event," Fisher said. "I love racing the 200 but the 500 is always a bit of hit or miss for me, as to what kind of performance I put in."

Fisher also has a serious streak of honesty in her thoughts on the sport. She makes little secret of the fact she's not exactly keen on pain.

It's a tough, demanding sport which requires not only a high degree of technical skill but also the ability to absorb pain in the longer distances.

"One of the biggest journeys with the sport for me has been learning to be brave," Fisher said.

"Every day at training, you're trying to learn and grow as an athlete and be a little bit brave and push the limits a bit more.

"In the early days of my career, I thought that would be the thing that would stop me being a champion. I was so scared of the pain. I hated being that uncomfortable.

"So that 500m [national final] was a pretty big milestone for me in terms of executing the process. It was really neat to come away with the title but the thing I was most happy with from that race was how brave I was and giving it 100 per cent."

Fisher carries a piece of advice from Carrington on that physical aspect of flatwater kayak racing. It came two years ago, just before the nationals, which were doubling as an Olympic qualifier.

"I asked 'are you afraid?' and she said to us: 'When you line up, you've got to charge at the bull, as scary as it is. Sometimes it might charge back at you. Other days, you'll win that fight and if you don't have a crack at it, you won't learn anything from the race.' That has always stuck with me."

Fisher, born in Rotorua but educated in Hawke's Bay, remembers her first nationals nine years ago. There were four girls in her race.

"With Lisa's success and I think the K4 a bit, the numbers have grown and there's so much talent coming through."

Fisher had success on the World Cup circuit last year. This year is all about reinforcing the view that she can push on to make a significant impact on the biggest stages.

Going for gold

● New Zealand will contest two World Cup regattas, in Portugal from May 19-21, and in Szeged, Hungary, from May 26-28.
● A young K4 women's crew has been named - Kim Thompson of Poverty Bay, Briar McLeely and Rebecca Cole from North Shore and Kayla Imrie of Mana.
● Aimee Fisher and Caitlin Ryan will team in the K2 500m, and the plan is for each to race alongside Olympic champion Lisa Carrington in the K1 200m (Fisher) and 500m (Ryan) disciplines.
● The world championships are in Racice, Czech Republic, on August 23-27.
● A decision on whether to send any men is due in the next few days.

- Herald on Sunday

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