Every single one is special, she says, and she’s proud of them all. But her most recent gold medal from the Canoe Sprint World Championships, which she shares with three others - her K4 teammates -- is unique.
Lisa, 34, and her fellow kayakers Alicia Hoskin, Olivia Brett and Tara Vaughan became not only the first New Zealand K4 to win the world champs, but they were also the first squad from the Southern Hemisphere - a huge achievement given the team is in its infancy.
“I’m incredibly proud of these women,” Lisa tells Woman’s Day. “Winning gold was so special, knowing where we’d come from in just two seasons together. Compared to the squads, we were fairly newly formed, almost like we’d started from scratch.
“I’ve raced in so many Olympics and world champs, where I’ve had to be self-reliant as they were individual performances. But this was a real team effort, which makes it even more special for me. I’ve got huge respect for each individual in the team.
“We’ve done a lot of work talking about what we want to achieve, which requires people to be honest, open and trusting, to help us understand each other. It’s taught me I can be in a team more than I thought I could. I care for these girls so much. Their support, trust and care have taught me so much.”
During our fun photoshoot at the Takapuna Boating Club, which looks out over Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the other women describe Lisa as a mentor, saying she’s been generous with her knowledge. And although the Olympic champion insists she sees herself as an equal member of the K4 team, she’s happy to share her experience if they find it helpful.
Having moved from Ōhope to Auckland for her sport as “an impressionable 19-year-old”, Lisa knows just how important it is for the next generation of female paddlers to have someone to look up to.
“It’s really rewarding,” she says of her role in the team. “I want us to be as good as we can be because, ultimately, I want us to be the fastest in the K4. I love seeing the other girls grow - and if I’ve helped with that in a small way, even better. But also, I just want to have fun with people who I enjoy being around.”
Fun is definitely a factor, but there have been challenges too, with each athlete over-coming hurdles that might deter less determined and dedicated people.
“We spend a lot of time together, so we’ve got to know each other’s little idiosyncrasies, our dreams and our desires,” tells Lisa, who shared her romantic wedding to longtime partner Michael Buck with Woman’s Day in March 2022.
“This K4 is special as we’re really aligned in where we want to go. It doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest individually - all four of us cross the line at the same time, so there’s accountability for everyone.”
Lisa praises each of the other women for their passion and drive to become the best in the world.
“Alicia is an incredible teammate,” says Lisa. “She’s selfless and loves to train. There is nothing worse than having someone who doesn’t want to be there.”
Of Tara, the youngest in the boat, Lisa adds: “She asks all the questions that people may be too afraid to ask. She’s authentic. She has a lot of integrity. She wants to work hard and be the best she can.”
And Olivia has taught them to think differently and adopt a new style of training. “It’s always good to challenge our processes,” says Lisa.
“Understanding what people need to learn is a good thing. If you’re all aligned, it’s magic - and because this team truly is, I know I can rely on them and get more out of myself.
“The more I feel that they’re leaning in, then I put more in - and vice versa. It’s been really cool seeing these other people growing and overcoming challenges as it makes me want to do the same. It helps me get better.”
And the gold medal they won in Duisburg, Germany, in August is not only theirs, Lisa explains.
“There’s a whole team behind our boat. These people come overseas with us and they’re not with their families. It’s really nice to have this win for these people who really believed in us.”
Here’s hoping our incredible K4 squad can repeat the feat at the Olympic Games in Paris next year!