Raffles have powered Dannevirke kayaker Anne Cairns on her journey to the Rio Olympics as a member of the Samoan team.

"The local community has been amazing and it's been humbling to have so much support from everyone," Cairns said.

Cairns said she was excited at the prospect of Rio, but she does not expect the nerves to really kick in until it is almost race time.

"My goal for Rio? Well, imagine the Hawke's Bay Magpies up against a top England side at Twickenham in front of a home crowd. It's a mismatch. But there will be nothing different in my motivation from the world's top paddlers in my races."


Competing in the K1200 and K1500, the same events as New Zealand's world champion Lisa Carrington, raffles run by her partner Nigel Walshe's father, Pat, raised $6500 to allow Cairns and her coach to train and race in Europe and now they head off for three weeks training on the Gold Coast.

"I told Anne to just concentrate on paddling and I'd raise the funds to get her there," Pat said. "She's is a bloody legend."

Partner Nigel said Cairns was "amazing".

"She's definitely put in a lot of effort. Four years ago, when she asked me if it was alright for her to go for her dream, I was all for it.

"It was a pretty cool day when she told me she'd been selected."

And, yes, Nigel will be packing the Samoan flag when he heads to Rio to support her, but there will be a Kiwi flag in his bag too.

"I'll be cheering for all the Pacific nations at the Olympics," he said.

It has not been an easy journey to the Olympics for Cairns.

"When I first arrived here in Dannevirke, I asked where the water was," she said.

"Then I spied a couple of ponds, but Nigel told me they were the poo ponds."

Training three or four times a day, six days a week, Cairns makes the 84km return trip to Backpaddock Lakes at Takapau, even on bitterly cold, wet days, as well as training on the water in Palmerston North where she is a professional firefighter.

In her lead-up to the Olympics she spent time in Europe training and competing.

"There were 19 different countries represented at the camp, including Estonia and Tunisia and everywhere in between," she said. "I raced in Germany and the Czech Republic and compared to my world championship effort last year I've improved. At first it was unnerving being amongst the top paddlers in the world, but in reality they were just training and paddling like the rest of us."

However, there is the spectre of drugs in her sport, Cairns said.

"It's disappointing. There was a Romanian crew in the German regatta who weren't there at the next regatta in the Czech Republic because of doping, and 27 athletes racing in the Czech regatta were waiting for the results of their B drug test."

Unlike last year's world champs, where Cairns was the athlete, manager and coach, she is now coached by Richard Forbes, who was coaching a New Zealand's mens' squad for the Olympics. But they were turned down for selection and Cairns has been able to be distance coached by Forbes, an Englishman who lives in Auckland.

"He was in Europe with me for three weeks and I've learnt a lot and made some pretty big changes to my technique," Cairns said.

Forbes will travel to Rio with Cairns, although he is slightly concerned to be wearing "a dress," the traditional Samoan lavalava.

"I've told him it's just a Samoan version of the kilt," Cairns said.

Cairns' family are thrilled their daughter has made it to the Olympics.

"We're very proud and over the moon and we're going to Rio because this is a one-in-a-lifetime event," mum Koko said.