Lisa Carrington has wasted no time getting her kayaking season underway, collecting the ninth New Zealand K1 200m title of her illustrious career at the national canoe sprint championships at Lake Karapiro on Friday.
A week after winning Halberg sportswoman of the year, Carrington returned to the water in style, clocking 39.74secs over her specialist distance to head off a quality field.
Under-23 world champion Aimee Fisher (Hawke's Bay) was second in 41.38secs, just ahead of North Shore's Caitlin Ryan, who finished in 41.53.
Carrington skipped the individual races at nationals last year following the Rio Olympics but showed she'd lost none of her hunger, a decade after her first national title.
"Last year, I was watching and I kind of forgot how nervous I get for nationals so it was nice to be back here racing the girls — you have to come here expecting to race world-class paddlers," the Eastern Bay paddler said. "I've got a lot of experience in the event but it was nice to have a good hit-out, six months out from worlds."
Lake Karapiro turned on stunning conditions for the first of three competition days, which also coincided with the opening of Canoe Racing New Zealand's new high performance centre.
It also made for sharp times and close racing, none more so than in the men's K2 200m, where North Shore's Ashton Reiser and Karl McMurtrie flew home in 34.20secs, just 0.40secs clear of Mana's Ethan Moore and Kurtis Imrie.
"We lost a little bit of sleep last night thinking about how it would pan out but we're pretty happy with the win," Reiser admitted. "It was pretty close on the line and the boys have been putting a bit of pressure on us over the last few months but we got there."
It capped a good day for McMurtrie, who was also the leading Kiwi in the K1 200m, also pipping Imrie by just 0.06secs. They both trailed Japanese visitor Momotaro Matsushita, who clocked 37.59secs to win.
Reiser and McMurtrie also joined Tim Waller and Tuva'a Clifton to win the men's K4 200m, heading home Arawa and Mana crews, while Fisher and Elise Legarth combined to win the women's K2 200m, from Mana's Kayla Imrie and Danielle Watson.