Team Cook Islands was made up of kayakers Otea Tommy, Jade Tierney, Yannicka Tinirau, Manea Ave, Caitlyn Tommy, Lily Tierney, Ashley-Kate Armstrong, Te Aroa Pekepo, Dylan Musselle, Oliver Dearlove, Kohl Horton, Ester Short, Georgia Dearlove, Finn Quirke, Ioane Tierney and Tain Armstrong. Six of these kayakers, Kohl Horton, Ester Short, Georgia Dearlove, Finn Quirke, Ioane Tierney and Tain Armstrong made their debut on the New Zealand paddling scene and really held their own coming away with medals in team boat events during the two-day competition.
This event is a little different from other kayaking events as it is raced based on “divisions” rather than age groups, and this gives both competitors and spectators something quite outside of the norm. Divisions are calculated using two seeding races where kayakers of all abilities are given two opportunities to gain placement in higher or lower divisions. This means that by the end of the rounds, kayakers should end up racing against others of similar ability, rather than age. The fun of this is that a 14-year-old could be racing against a Masters kayaker – so there is plenty of friendly rivalry as neither wants to be beaten by the other. There is ample opportunity to race so this is a great development regatta for all levels of racing.
“Given the race format of this event meant Cook Islands athletes at times raced against New Zealand team athletes, who have recently returned from the Hungary World Champs. What impressed me was the Cooks athletes aren't phased one bit who they're up against, and more importantly in the crux of the race they're in the fight, toe to toe” said Stephen Browne, Team Cook Islands’ New Zealand-based technical coach.
At the end of day one, Team Cook Islands finished first on the medal tally with eight golds, one silver and four bronze but were edged out of the leading spot by Poverty Bay Kayak Club on day two to finish second with 14 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze – one gold medal less then Poverty Bay.
In addition, race organisers Canoe Racing New Zealand at the prize giving ceremony, made a special acknowledgment of Team Cook Islands exemplary behaviour on the race line/course and throughout the two day event.
Roly Rolleston, national coach and programme director, said: “The results achieved from this event were as I expected, not to downplay their success but I’ve seen firsthand how hard this group have trained, their commitment and hunger for higher honours.
“Other sports could learn a thing or two from this group. I’m also realistic, being the first event on the New Zealand race calendar there were some strong athletes from regional clubs absent, for sure the absent athletes will be on the line in December, and this group of athletes will be ready to take a piece of them too.
“I praise the efforts of our Development 2 Programme athletes and Kohl Horton, this being their first event. All are very new and raw to this sport, with three months training, but showed they're more than comfortable lining up against the best in attendance.”
As always, Canoe & Kayak Cook Islands wishes to thank all their major sponsors Bank of the South Pacific, Bluesky, Island Car & Bike Hire, 4XCube, Capital Security Bank and our anonymous sponsor.
“Thank you also to all our supports and those that have posted words of encouragement and congratulatory comments on our Facebook page.”
- Elizabeth Tommy/ Canoe & Kayak Cook Islands