Oceania has only four canoeists and kayakers at the Youth Olympics starting in Buenos Aires on Saturday but three of them are from the Bay of Plenty. The other is Australian.

Finn Anderson, who's 16 and from Tauranga, along with 15-year-old George Snook from Ōkere Falls and Mount Maunganui 14-year-old Kahlia Cullwick, were among six local Youth Olympians who left for the Argentinian capital yesterday.

Youth Olympic events are not like we're used to seeing in this sport at the Olympics and World Championships. While there are both sprint and slalom races in the canoe (the paddler is kneeling with a one-blade paddle) and kayak (the paddler is sitting with a two-blade paddle), all the races are on flat water.

The sprint course, about 400m long, is an S shape, while the slalom starts from a ramp. The paddler has to slide into the water, then navigate around some buoys, with a compulsory underwater roll at the halfway mark.


These events are unique to the Youth Olympics and are designed to be a stepping stone to whitewater and straight course racing at senior level.

Anderson would appear to be the best chance of a medal.

The Tauranga Boys' College student finished second in the canoe qualification event in Barcelona in April.

"I'm definitely aiming for a place on the podium there," he says.

Snook is a kayaker, training on a course he's set up on the Kaituna River near his home village, although he admits his attendance at Rotorua Lakes High School this year has only been "around 50 per cent" because of his kayaking commitments.

The team's coach, Matt McKnight, believes both Snook and Cullwick, who's among the youngest in the New Zealand contingent, can both improve on their finishes at the Barcelona qualification.

"Kahlia and George made it to the second round at Barcelona, but hopefully with a bit more training from April forward, they'll make up those extra places and we can have people on the podium," says McKnight.

Also leaving for Buenos Aires yesterday were two Tauranga windsurfers, Max van der Zalm and Veerle ten Have.


Van der Zalm believes his international experience this year will prepare him well for the Youth Olympic regatta.

"Here in New Zealand we only ever have about 15 sailors in a windsurfing race. Sometimes this year the fleets have been up to a hundred. You learn plenty in a fleet that size," he says.

His results overseas this year have been impressive. He finished 16th out of a hundred at the World Youth championships, 12th in an event in Texas and fourth at a regatta in Holland.

He qualified for Buenos Aires by winning the RS:X division at the Oceania Youth Championships in Brisbane last January.

17-year-old ten Have also won the Women's RS:X division at the Oceania Youth Championships.

The Youth Olympics regatta, to be sailed close to the shore on the expansive River Plate, has a fleet of 26. Depending on the conditions, there could be up to 15 races to decide the medals.

The other local Youth Olympian leaving yesterday was 18-year-old climber Sarah Tetzlaff. She'd just made a quick stop back in Mount Maunganui after more training in Noumea, where there's a full sized 15m sport climbing wall.

The climbing and sailing start on Monday (NZT) while the canoe and kayak isn't under way until late next week.