Canoe Polo about to launch
Unless you have been flying your helicopter or drone over Hawke's Bay's Regional Sports Park, then you may not be aware that behind the earthworks an amazing facility is taking shape, and an emerging sport is about to take off to the next level.
Mitre 10 Park Hawke's Bay is about to have another great facility officially added to its growing village of sport and recreation facilities, fast becoming a huge base for community fitness.
Canoe Polo Hawke's Bay will soon open the new sparkling jewel in their crown – an outdoor pool complex, specifically designed for canoe polo, with four full-sized courts.
It's an awesome achievement, especially in this age of dying volunteerism. There is plenty of "hand out" mentality about these days, so it is refreshing to see projects like this, where a group of people dream it, put their hands up, roll their sleeves up, and make it happen.
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It's a great community project.
The grand opening is next Friday, with a major tournament set to run across the weekend.
As well as canoe polo, it looks to be a great water space for other community use as well, learning waka ama and other small boat sports, triathlons, and who knows what else may eventuate.
Being a young sport, the potential for canoe polo is huge. Up until now a lack of water space has stunted its growth, and with this new facility the potential for young and old wanting to give it a go, and for schools to get involved, it really could take off.
Canoe polo is a relatively recent sport around the world, only taking some formal shape in the 70s and 80s. For many years, back into the 1800s people played similar sports in small boats, but the birth of the modern game, on agreed court size and elevated goals, arguably only arrived as a demonstration sport at 1987 Duisberg canoe sprints in Germany, where the sport of canoe polo finally became official.
The first world championships were in England in 1994, and have been held every two years since. The NZ women won gold in the 2016 final against Germany, and the U21 NZ women picked up bronze at the past four world champs, showing some serious potential in the sport.
Hawke's Bay already has 700 of the 2200 registered participants nationwide, so now with this facility, especially located alongside the EIT Institute of Sport & Health with all its athlete development services, it could become the leading centre and national hub for canoe polo.
With the Olympics regularly introducing modern sports to keep up with the times, surely it won't be long before canoe polo gets its chance, and with the settled and warm weather here in Hawke's Bay, this beautiful outdoor facility could prove to be a real legacy for the future – both for fun active recreation, and for some future Hawke's Bay Olympians.
• Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and a lecturer in sports science at EIT.