Kiwis have 'toughness' thanks to Olympians

IN SYNCH: New Zealand kayakers Darryl Fitzgerald (left) and Steven Ferguson in action in the the final of the K2 1000m.
IN SYNCH: New Zealand kayakers Darryl Fitzgerald (left) and Steven Ferguson in action in the the final of the K2 1000m.

Steve Ferguson's kayaking commitments may be undecided but his thirst for competing at the highest level remains unquenched.

The four-time Olympian will pull on another black uniform this week, this time for the New Zealand surf lifesaving team at the rescue world championships in Adelaide.

Ferguson has been to the last three Olympics with kayaking and raced in Sydney in 2000 as a swimmer.

He and Darryl Fitzgerald finished seventh in the K2 1000m in London and he's not rushing any retirement talk.

"I'm going to make decisions on where I go with my kayaking after Christmas," the 32-year-old said.

"Because I'm doing surf training at the moment, it means I'm going to have that fitness to get back into kayaking if I want to. I really enjoy surf - it's one of my big passions and it's a great focus to take away from my kayaking during the off-season."

With his swimming and ski paddling abilities, Ferguson will be in high demand in Adelaide from tomorrow, joining a 12-strong Kiwi team in a range of disciplines, with three days of pool-based competition and two days on Glenelg Beach.

He's a veteran of three previous lifesaving worlds - in 2002, 2004 and 2006 - and feels a bit of rookie enthusiasm creeping back in this time.

"I've missed two worlds and a lot has happened - there are a lot of new athletes and new competitors but I still know I'm able to race hard and do what I do and hopefully I can bring something exciting to the team that they haven't had for a few years."

Like his father, five-time Olympian and former national ironman champion Ian, Ferguson began his career in the waves, joining the Red Beach club when he was 7. He's now coaching at Piha during the summer and with young son Flynn, he'd like to see the Ferguson name live on in surf lifesaving.

"You're in it for life. I grew up watching Dad compete and I love being on the beach, helping where I can. Now that I've got a little boy, I want him to grow up watching me compete like I watched my Dad. It doesn't matter what he does at the end of the day but I believe it's a great culture and great environment to be around."

Ferguson is one of four Olympians in the New Zealand team, while Olympic K1 200m champion Lisa Carrington will also compete for Mount Maunganui in the interclub component of the championship.

Among the Kiwi team rookies are Olympic relay swimmer Natasha Hind, New Zealand ironman champion Max Beattie and rising star Devon Halligan.

Halligan, the daughter of former Kiwis league player Daryl, is the New Zealand open and under-19 ironwoman champion and the Australian under-19 titleholder.

Ferguson, Hind, team captain Andy McMillan and Steven Kent all competed in London, which New Zealand coach Scott Bartlett believes will be a huge asset to his team.

"They're highly experienced athletes and a lot of them have been around internationally for years," Bartlett said. "They've developed a toughness over a period of time, which is one of the reasons we're excited about this group."

New Zealand's last outing at the championships saw them come close before Australia pulled clear on the last day to win by 24 points in Egypt in 2010.

New Zealand led after the first two days in the pool but the Australian beach strength helped them snatch the title. The last Kiwi success was on home sand in 1998. 

Fairfax Media