Whanganui teenager Anika Robinson has a real shot at world glory if she performs to expectations at the New Zealand Long Distance Waka Ama Championships in Auckland this weekend.
The 16-year-old Whanganui City College boarder originally from Poipoi will represent the Whanganui River Outrigger Canoe Club under coach Howard Hyland, a former New Zealand coach.
Robinson has form on the board heading into this weekend's challenge after winning the Plate 250m age group sprint at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Waka Ama Championships at Blue Lakes in Rotorua a few weeks ago.
Robinson will be the youngest in her 16-19-year-old age group (J19) this weekend in a one-off singles open water race over 12km with qualification for the World Long Distance Championships in Australia in August up for grabs.
The event will be hosted by Auckland Region Outrigger Canoe Association (AROCA) at the Landing, Okahu Bay Friday and Saturday with all singles set down for Good Friday.
The 12km course for Robinson's race is marked out on the Waitemata Harbour, so is reasonably sheltered compared to the open water ocean course she will need to navigate in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in August if she qualifies.
Still 12km even in a harbour setting will be a tough task for a 16-year-old, but one her coach believes she is up for.
"Anika is still a work in progress, but has talent and is far better than she realises at the moment," Hyland said.
"I don't think she appreciates just how good she is. Anikais not what I would call a natural, but she works extremely hard and only missed the championship final at the Secondary Schools by about a second before easily winning the 250m sprint Plate by quite a margin. Open water racing over the longer distance will suit Anika.
"It's the sort of event where you really need to have confidence in your abilities on the water and she has that, it's just a matter of her own belief in whether she can win or not.
"As a former national coach I know what is required and I think she is up for qualifying for the worlds," Hyland said.
Robinson will need all the belief she can muster tomorrow with only the winner of the J19 singles race qualifying for the world championship.
Robinson is likely to have seven or eight rivals in her event on Good Friday.
The youngster is looking forward to the challenge and the prospect of paddling 12km in open water does not faze Robinson.
"I only just missed making the championship final of the 250m singles at the secondary schools, mainly because I was forced to paddle much of it on my right side when my left is far stronger," Robinson said.
"I will be at the bottom end of my age group and one of the youngest, but I will be giving it everything I have. As long as I do my best I'll be happy and if I happen to win,well that will be amazing."