The Carrington clan thought they could have a champion in the making when little Lisa first started primary school.
Father Pat remembered the resolve his daughter showed in her first school cross-country race. “She was just five and they raced in a five-to-six age group. She just took off. She ran away from everyone and she was only just beaten on the line by an older girl.
“That's when we first noticed it," he said. “When we look back there were other times like that when she showed that determination and competitiveness."
She also developed toughness, tagging along with older brothers Shaun and Brett. Lisa admits she used to “hog the [television] remote" and on long drives would refuse to sit in the middle. She laughs and chuckles that she was the “uncool, annoying sister".
Once the family moved to Ohope Beach, Pat and Glynis Carrington insisted their offspring take up surf life saving. “We said to all the kids, ‘you've got to learn how to save someone's life'," Pat said.
“Shaun, the eldest, went to surf first and Brett followed. They won medals . . . [and Lisa] would just follow along, and jump on a ski or jump on a board. She cottoned on to it pretty quick."
Surf was Lisa's main sport, but she took up kayaking for winter training. It was similar to the surf ski, so she picked it up quickly.
She went to the canoeing nationals, performed well, and developed the desire to continue.
Lisa was 17 and in her last year at Whakatane High School when she made the New Zealand team for the junior world championships and thought she might make kayaking her sporting career.
She broke into the senior international ranks in the K2 class with good mate Erin Taylor, but showed instant potential when she switched to the single-seat boat.
She says she did not really develop the belief she could possibly win at the Olympics until she won a World Cup race in Duisburg, Germany, in May last year. “It made me realise . . . I could do this. From then on, I've been fully committed and fully into this."
Her family say her skills blossomed under coach Gordon Walker, a former Coast to Coast multisport champion. They have also watched her confidence grow. “It hasn't happened overnight - she's never been big-headed about what she can do," her father says. "It's always been done in a measured way." He says Lisa has always been analytical about her sport. “She was always one who would ask questions and say, ‘why are we doing this?' . . . she didn't do things blindly, just following orders."
Her career has come a long way in a short time. She won the world championship in Hungary in 2011 and destroyed the Olympic final field, leaving in her wake Hungarian bronze medallist Natasa Douchev-Janics, who has 18 world championship titles and six Olympic medals in the K1, K2 and K4.
Carrington and her family believe there is more improvement possible in the years ahead.
- © Fairfax NZ News