Hawke's Bay Olympian Aimee Fisher has been labelled the "warm favourite" for the K1 200m at this weekend's national canoe sprint championships at Lake Karapiro.
That isn't a surprise considering fellow Olympian and supreme Halberg Awards title winner Lisa Carrington has opted out of the individual events this weekend and Fisher finished second to Carrington last year and eighth at the German ICF World Cup round in May. What is a surprise is the fact Fisher, 22, isn't oozing with confidence.
"I just want to put in a good race and see how fast I can go," Fisher said last night.
"I haven't done much this summer and only did the minimum at the Blue Lake II regatta in early December because I had a bout of bronchitis."
Hawke's Bay's 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, Fisher, will have all of her 200m heats and semifinals today, the same for the 500m events tomorrow and finals scheduled for Sunday. The Karamu High School product will race with Elise Legarth in the K2 500 and Hana-tia Ross in the K2 200 as well as with a Hawke's Bay K4 crew which will be finalised today.
"Racing for your home province at nationals is so much fun. It's not as stressful as at the Olympics or a World Cup meet."
Just as Fisher used to look up to the likes of Jordan Pearse and Jamie Welch in her younger days, the likes of Legarth and Ross will relish the opportunity to pick up tips and race alongside Fisher.
"Hopefully these girls will pass things on to the younger ones when it is their turn to be the older ones," Fisher said.
Carrington will focus solely on team boats for her Eastern Bay club this weekend. Hawke's Bay's six-time national K1 200m champion Scott Bicknell won't be racing this weekend as has opted to focus on his surf lifesaving commitments with the Ocean Beach Kiwi club.
North Shore Olympian Caitlin Ryan will be among those hunting the K1 500m final.
"The 500 is something I've been doing really well at for the past couple of months, technically and physically, and I'd love to put together a world-class performance this week. I'm also aware there are some young girls who will be hunting that title too, though it's exciting to see the new talent coming through and raising the standard further," she said.
Fisher, who recently completed a big endurance block of training, will be tackling her first K1 500m race of the summer.
"I'll just be testing the waters," she said.
Rising North Shore stars Rebecca Cole and Briar McLeely and Poverty Bay's Kim Thompson will be pushing to translate their under-23 prowess into open success, with all three joining Ryan, Wellingtonian Kayla Imrie and Fisher in team boats during the upcoming World Cup Series in Europe.
Imrie's brother Kurtis Imrie is also hoping to impress this weekend. He's part of the new national high performance squad training in Auckland under coach Fred Loyer and wants to measure the gains he's made over the last two months, having inspiration close to home in the form of his older sister.
"Kayla is a big inspiration to me - seeing her at the Olympics gave me butterflies and my motivation levels are through the roof at the moment. I'd love to see myself there one day but for now, I'm just enjoying the process and can hopefully see big improvements for myself and the rest of the open boys on the world stage in the near future."