By KATIE FARMAN and CHERIE TAYLOR in Rotorua
Lying in a hospital bed with horrific injuries after a car crash has not deterred George Thomas from his dream of representing New Zealand at next year's Waka Ama World Championships.

The Rotorua plasterer and waka ama coach and his family qualified for this week's waka ama nationals at Lake Karapiro, which also doubles as trials for the New Zealand-hosted World Championships next year.

However, late last week within hours of his family's achievements featuring in The Daily Post, their dreams of making the team were crushed when Mr Thomas and his daughter Dale, 16, were involved in a head-on smash near Lake Okareka.

Mr Thomas had been coaching his Te Au Rere waka ama club junior 16s team and was driving up Okareka Loop Rd when an oncoming vehicle lost control.

To protect his daughter, who was in the front passenger seat, he was forced to turn into a roadside hill to reduce the impact of the oncoming car.

Mr Thomas broke his pelvis, shins and ankles, shattered his hip joint and suffered a minor head injury.

He was in surgery for four hours on Saturday night and will be transferred to Waikato Hospital next week for further operations. He will spend at least another three months in a wheelchair as he heads into extensive rehabilitation.

His daughter suffered severe bruising to her body.

However, Mr Thomas refuses to be daunted by the accident, remaining positive and fixed on waka ama as he lies in his Rotorua Hospital bed while his teammates compete at Lake Karapiro.

The team members Mr Thomas coaches are constantly on the phone checking on him. The club's Whangamarino Under-10 team has already won two gold medals.

"I'm just so pleased with them winning. This is the first time for them. It's hard enough to qualify but to win a medal and gold at that is just awesome," he said.

He is rapt his trainees were calling so he could keep up with their performance.

"Cellphones are amazing things," he told The Daily Post.

Mr Thomas also remains philosophical about his chances of representing New Zealand at the waka ama world champs.

"While I'm shattered, I can still qualify at a later date. Things happen and it's a waste of time looking backwards. I like a good challenge and I can't wait to get back in a canoe," he said.

Mr Thomas was due to represent his club in both the W1 masters men and open men classes, his wife Sandra in the senior masters women, son Tyrin, 13, in the open men and Dale in the J16 women's.

While Tyrin has opted to compete at the nationals, Mrs Thomas said she hasn't had the motivation to compete.

"It's been absolutely devastating ... this accident has shattered our long-term dreams," she said.

"My heart just isn't in it now. My focus is making sure George gets better and has the proper support around him. Besides, they have found replacement paddlers for our positions in the team and I wish them all the best."

Mrs Thomas has been overwhelmed by the support and messages of good luck from the Te Au Rere club and the wider waka ama community.

"He [Mr Thomas] will be determined to get back out on to the water," she said.

"It'll be hard to keep him away from the sport he loves, in fact I think it will make him more determined to get back on the water, even in a coaching role."

Meanwhile, Constable Tony Bennett of the Rotorua police said he believed speed was a contributing factor in last Friday's accident and that is was "an accident that didn't need to happen".

"People need to have a lot more respect for fellow drivers on the road," he said.

"Especially in this hot weather when the traffic flows are heavier with more trailers and boats on the road, drivers need to be more diligent."