New Zealand are sending eight women paddlers to World Cup regattas this year, in a clear sign that's where the overwhelming strength of the sport lies in this country.
Spearheaded by three-time Olympic medallist Lisa Carrington, and the K4 who reached the Rio Olympic final last year, the women will race in two K4 boats but also split into single and two-seaters at times.
Carrington is skipping her K1 200m discipline, in which she's won the last two Olympic titles and will be in a K4, effectively replacing the retired Jaimee Lovett from the Rio quartet, and will race with Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie. She will return to the K1 500m at the second World Cup in Szeged, Hungary in late May.
Ryan will race the K1 500m in Portugal and Fisher the K1 200m in Hungary, having made a World Cup final in that discipline in Germany last year. All eyes are focussed on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and this is the first chance for paddlers to position themselves for that.
"I have to do it differently," Carrington said of the fresh challenge. "The same thing that motivated me for Rio is not the same thing that will motivate me for Tokyo and I learned that doing the double (in Rio where she won gold in the K1 200m and bronze in the 500m single) is incredibly hard."
The second K4 crew comprises the up-and-comers, Briar McLeely , Rebecca Cole, Britney Ford and Kim Thompson, daughter of 1984 Olympic champion Alan Thompson. They will race in both 200 and 500m distances at both cups.
"We're really proud of the progress the younger crew has made since joining our high performance squad and this is their chance to display that improvement on the world stage," Canoe Racing New Zealand chief executive Mark Weatherall said.
The eight women will split into four pairs to race over the 200 and 500m distances at both cups.
A new team will be named for the world championships in Racice, Czech Republic in August.
"Being able to put two quality K4 boats onto the world stage is a big achievement for a country the size of New Zealand," K4 coach Rene Olsen said. "I'm incredibly proud of both the depth we've developed and that our best athletes have an ambition to be a part of the team boats now. The exciting part is that there's still a long way to go."
New Zealand World Cup canoeing squad:
Lisa Carrington (Eastern Bay of Plenty), Rebecca Cole, Cailin Ryan, Briar McLeely (all North Shore), Aimee Fisher (Hawkes Bay), Kim Thompson, Britney Ford (Poverty Bay), Kayla Imrie (Mana).
May 19-21: World Cup 1, Portugal
May 26-28: World Cup 2, Hungary.