AJ Macdonald has tasted world championship waka ama glory with two kidneys ... now she is ready to do it with one.
"It's all good. As long as you keep healthy and fit there are no issues," Macdonald said last night.
A vision-impaired competitor, Macdonald will be one of three para paddlers in the Hawke's Bay contingent which will travel to the July 16-20 world championships in Tahiti. The Haeata Ocean Sports Club pair of NickyLee Epps, who is partially paralysed down one side after a stroke experienced 11 years ago, and lower limb amputee Peter Cowan are the others.
After winning gold and silver medals at her previous world sprint championships she won the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award at the 2017 Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year function. She had to withdraw from last year's world long distance champs after donating a kidney to her father.
"My last sprint worlds was a last minute decision for me because the team was short. This time we've had a bit more preparation ... we're a bit more of a serious team," Macdonald said referring to the Kiwi para paddling squad of five women and eight men.
In addition to tackling her W1 250 and 500m events Macdonald, 33, will have the No 1 or No 2 seat in the W12 500m and and W6 500m and 1000m events.
"I'm confident we can podium in all of the events. But just getting there is good," third-year Te Rau Oranga O Ngati Kahungunu paddler Macdonald said.
A solo mum with three boys, she has a job with the Napier City Council and also teaches self defence to youngsters. Despite these commitments Macdonald still manages four paddling training sessions each week, twice with club crews and two on her own as well as boxing training at the The Lab Training Centre to improve her aerobic base.
"I'm lucky my oldest son, Jayden, is happy to baby sit my two younger sons. I'm equally as grateful to all of those who have assisted with my fundraising," she added referring to her club, Napier Masonic Trust and Napier Lions Club.
Fourth year paddler Epps, 23, took up the sport in an attempt to become more active after her stroke. She was also inspired by her nanny, Violet Gear, who still paddles at golden masters level.
"I'm happy with what I've achieved. While I didn't win any medals at my last worlds I'm confident of winning some this time," Epps said.
The St Joseph's Maori Girls College old girl is hoping to have the No 5 seat in the W6 and W 12 500 and 1000m events.
"The No 5 seat has been mine from day one and I'm not swapping," Epps said.
Like Macdonald, Epps is coached by Rotorua's George Thomas. When she isn't training on the water she does plenty of walking and swimming.
"Waka ama is my main sport. I want to reach golden masters level like Nanny Violet," Epps said.
Cowan, 23, also boasts world championship experience. He went to last year's long distance world championships and was in a six-person New Zealand adaptive crew which finished second to Australia in their 18km race.
At least four countries will be represented in para events for W6 and W12 paddlers in Tahiti. Para singles paddlers from other counties have also entered.
"Our paddlers will be real contenders for medals," Hawke's Bay-based para manager for the Kiwi team, Honoria Ropiha, said.
While Macdonald has sorted her fundraising Epps still has $2145 to raise. Anyone keen to assist can do so on the following Facebook link: