Whanganui paddler Max Brown has a unique, but tough task ahead after gaining selection for the New Zealand men's canoe sprint team to compete at the ICF World Cup series in May.
While Lisa Carrington and Caitlin Ryan and co have been flying the New Zealand winning world and olympic titles, the Kiwi men have taken a backseat for the past few years.
Brown and his K2 partner Kurtis Imrie, are the first mens open K2 team to compete at an ICF World Cup in the last four years or so.
This year's World Cup series will be held in Poznan, Poland May 23-26 and Duisburg, Germany May 31 to June 2.
Before that the New Zealand team, including the women, will train in France to prepare.
"It's been a very exciting few weeks for me. I have been a member of the New Zealand Under-23 team for the past five years, but now it's time to step up the elite level," Brown said.
Brown's best performance in world U23 company was 12th in the K4 500, but his specialty now is the K2 1000. He and Imrie won the nationals in that boat winning by five seconds.
"We've been training hard and bettered our personal best just the other day by four seconds, so we're on track."
The pair have a long way to go to putting a New Zealand K2 crew back on the world map, but Brown said they are up for the challenge.
First they must perform at the upcoming regatta to qualify for the World Championships in Hungary in August and then qualify there to have a boat at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"Once the boats are qualified we then have to defend our spot in them."
Brown has been training 2-3 times a day with the elite High Performance crews on Lake Karapiro in Cambridge since graduating for Victoria University in Wellington with a music degree in 2016.
"I work in Cambridge when I'm no training teach ukulele, guitar and piano to help fund this non-lucrative canoe career," Brown said.
"We will be heading to France alongside Lisa and the rest of the women team mid-April to train with the French national team that includes Olympic silver medallists. I'm not that strong, but I have endurance and technique and the ability to absorb pain. I intend coming back to Whanganui to see family and friends before leaving and will probably get out on the river while I'm there.
"If it wasn't for Whanganui I wouldn't be where I am. I still race in Whanganui Kayak Club colours at nationals and speak regularly with my old coach Brian Scott. Brian is a strong supporter and so is the club and I'm really grateful for that," Brown said.
Scott said his protege deserved his chance at the elite men's level.
"It's great to see Max get this opportunity. It's great to see anyone from Whanganui reach this level no matter when the sporting code. It gives the younger ones confidence they too can reach these levels," Scott said.