Olivia Eaton in queen teens battle for world title
Olivia Eaton has one major aim at the world surf lifesaving champs - beat her arch rival.
The 16-year-old leaves with the New Zealand squad on Monday for France where she will compete in her specialist event, the beach sprint, on the sands of Le Grande Motte in Montpellier.
Part of the 12-strong national youth team, Eaton has been turning heads in the sport since she became the youngest winner of the open women's beach sprint title at the New Zealand surf lifesaving championships at Ohope Beach in March.
The New Plymouth Girls' High School year 12 student will have 10 days to acclimatise before she lines up in her first event.
As well as the beach sprint, she will also compete in the beach flags and the beach team relay over four days.
Under the tutelage of coach Larry O'Byrne, Eaton has been delighted with the way her training schedule has her on target to peak in France.
''I've been training right through the winter with him for this because this has been the goal for a pretty long time,'' she said.
''I've been doing a lot of training at the track to get my times down and it's helped a lot.''
Having gained experience from competing in last year's world championships in Japan, where she finished second in the beach sprint and beach flags, Eaton thought she was in much better shape to go one better in 2014, despite the stiff competition from Australia.
''They have got one girl who I've come up against a few times and she is the hardest competitor I've ever come up against.''
That ''one girl'' is Mooloolaba's Nicole Kay, who became the youngest Australian to take out the national open women's beach sprint title last year when she was 15.
''I'm yet to take her out but it's going to be this time, for sure. I think it's a mental thing because you have to have an edge over everyone and be confident in your training.
"Every time I've come up against her it's been in her domain in Australia and now we're going to a new space and a new environment, so it could be anyone's [event].''
Eaton will be joined in the New Zealand squad by senior member Paul Cracroft-Wilson, of Fitzroy, who was in the national team which won the world title in 2012.
After the world championships, Eaton's next big mission outside of the New Zealand champs will be the Australian national championships on the Gold Coast in April.
Taranaki Daily News