In the category of surprise New Zealand Olympic medallists put canoe slalom racer Luuka Jones' silver at the top of the list.

Early tomorrow, the women's K4 kayak will have the chance of going to the top of that chart by qualifying second fastest for their 500m final at the Lagoa stadium.

The quartet of Jaimee Lovett, Kayla Imrie, Aimee Fisher and Caitlin Ryan were third in their heat behind Belarus and Poland but, needing a top three finish, sharpened up to win their semifinal in 1min 34.778s to be quicker than all bar the German four, who recorded 1:34.710.

The New Zealand four, under Danish coach Rene Olsen, have switched their pre-Games seating arrangements. Wellington's Imrie has moved up from No 4 seat to No 2 behind Lovett, with North Shore's Ryan now at the back.


Perhaps inspired by the deeds of single sculler Lisa Carrington, with her gold-bronze haul earlier in the week, New Zealand are now a big chance for a medal which no pre-Games planning would have banked on.

"It's just really cool to get out there, have a good race and express all the hard work we've done," Lovett said. "Just to be on the startline and feel the trust through the boat, and the strength."

Ryan said their lung-busting year is starting to pay dividends.

"People discount it, but we've got that endurance now," she said.

"You've either got endurance or you don't and we can't be counted out at the end of the race either. "All of us trust each other to finish well and we've shown that here."

New Zealand headed home the Ukraine crew by just over .700s in their semifinal.

Gold favourites Hungary include world champion Danuta Kozak, who won the K1 500m final and is chasing a third gold at the regatta.

Reputations don't count, says Ryan about a crew which has gradually increased in self belief over the last year.

"We never really knew what we had in us," Ryan said. "We had not much expectation but as we came together and kept working, we thought 'why not?'

"We've got the potential, we've done the training and now it's becoming more real as time goes by."

This is the first time New Zealand have fielded a K4 crew at the Olympics. The last men's four was in Barcelona 24 years ago.