Kayaking mates now bonded by gold medal

SIMON PLUMB AND TONY SMITH IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2012
Lisa Carrington and Erin Taylor
Reuters

New Zealand's Lisa Carrington (front) and Erin Taylor compete in the women's K2 500m semifinals.

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Olympic champion Lisa Carrington has paid tribute to the friend and crewmate who helped make her gold-medal winning kayak dream reality.

Four years ago Erin Taylor became the first female paddler to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games.

Carrington said it was that breakthrough, and Taylor's ability to challenge her in daily training, which helped guide her on Saturday night in London.

"Erin was the first girl to go to the Olympics in Beijing. She's my team-mate and really good friend," Carrington said.

"We're the fastest two in New Zealand so to be able to train with someone who pushes your boundaries and keeps you on top of your game but is also your mate, it's pretty special.

"We get on like a house on fire. She's awesome and is fully behind me."

Carrington's coach, Gordon Walker, goes even further, saying part of the Olympic title won by Carrington was earned by Taylor.

"A big part of Lisa's success is the environment, it's critical to her day-to-day happiness which influences how she trains," Walker said.

"Erin's a massive part of that environment, she's got a part of that medal, without question."

Together, Carrington and Taylor finished seventh in the K2 500m at Eton Dorney, 2.2 seconds outside the top three, and Walker said he was confident they had the credentials to start picking up medals as a pair.

Meanwhile Carrington - the iron-willed woman from Whaka in the Waka - carried a specially blessed "taonga from home" around her neck as she won New Zealand canoeing's first Olympic gold medal for 24 years.

Proud Whakatane couple Pat and Glynis Carrington presented their 23-year-old daughter with a striking pounamu pendant a few days before she raced on Dorney Lake.

The green good luck charm was tucked inside the neckline of her black racing suit as Carrington swept to the women's K1 200m title on Saturday night.

Giving a special gift is a ritual for this close-knit family with Ngati Porou, Te Atianga a Mahaki and Tainui heritage.

"We've presented Lisa with a taonga, a gift each time she's been away, for the last four years," Pat Carrington explained after the whanau welcomed their world champion with a haka.

"The last one she lost, it fell into the water in Munich."

Pat and Glynis were anxious she should have another pendant to wear at her first Olympic Games.

"We went back to Gisborne and had it designed for her and we got it blessed by our local kaumatua down there," Pat said.

Lisa said she appreciated the gift. “I'm always carrying a piece of home with me ... you don't feel so lonely when you're out there."

The 2011 Maori Sportswoman of the Year said her Maori culture was important to her.

"I don't live it every day but I've got to embrace where I'm from."

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- Fairfax Media

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