Whanganui paddlers Jack Clifton and Lucas Thompson are continuing a fine River City tradition after gaining selection to the New Zealand Canoe Racing team for the ICF Junior World Championships in Pitesti, Romania on August 1-4.
The 17-year-old Whanganui High School students were named in the four-man team squad earlier this week, while 16-year-old schoolmate Sophie Brooke will represent New Zealand in the U18 squad on home waters at the Asia Pacific Cup regatta in May. Clifton and Thompson will also paddle at this regatta as part of the men's U18 team.
For the past six years paddlers from the Whanganui Kayak Club have represented New Zealand at either Junior or Under-23 world championships.
Max Brown and Aiden Nossiter cut a track for clubmates to follow when making the New Zealand junior team in the K2 boat in Canada in 2013.
Kayak club coach Brian Scott said others have followed every years since, although Brown has competed in multiple years. He is now part of the New Zealand elite squad training at Lake Karapiro near Hamilton and in the men's team for the upcoming world cup regattas.
He and Nossiter were ranked in the top dozen K2 paddlers on the globe after making a B-final at the worlds.
"Toby Brooke was also rated 11th after the world Under-18 championships before injury forced him out of the sport for almost three years," Scott said.
"He is back with a vengence now. Both Jack and Lucas fully deserve their spots in the national team. Jack and Liam Lace were in the New Zealand junior team at the world in Bulgaria last year and, in fact, Jack was one of the youngest in the team."
Clifton and Thompson join Waitara Kayak Club paddlers Fletcher Moles and Robson Old in the teams squad, while Sam Perkins from Poverty Bay has been added to guide the single boat.
"The other two guys in the teams squad are good mates with Jack and Lucas and that will help at international level."
Scott said competing at world level was difficult with Kiwi paddlers up against countries where kayaking was more than just a national sport.
"Places like Germany and Hungary kayaking is extremely popular. At last count I think something like 200,000 paddlers were registered in Germany. Kayaking is huge in Europe.
"We have very small pools to choose from here in New Zealand in comparison, yet still punch well above our weight."
Sophie Brooke is the younger sister to Toby Brooke and is rapidly making a name for herself as a potential national representative.
From May 10-12 Canoe Racing NZ will be hosting the Asia Pacific Cup at Lake Karapiro. A joint imitative in conjunction with Australian Canoeing and the Japan Canoe Federation, this event is in its second year and will feature U16, U18 and U21 canoe sprint athletes competing for the Cup.
The Asia Pacific event will be open to any country. In the first few years the largest national teams were expected to be from Australia, New Zealand and Japan but we also have confirmed teams from Singapore and the Cook Islands attending.
"The team culture at the Whanganui Kayak Club and the determination of our members are major factors in our success, but we are also so blessed to have the Whanganui River as our training ground," Scott said.