Canterbury kayak sprinter Danielle Currie has overcome the odds to gain selection in the New Zealand squad for the under-23 world championships in Hungary next month.
She is joined in the under-23 team by fellow Cantabrian Lucy Johnson and Auckland-based athletes Kayla Imrie and Kim Thompson.
Currie's original squad of eight women dwindled to two in Canterbury after the 2011 earthquake - just her and Johnson. "Training is demanding and, for many, it was too hard, too dark and too cold to continue," she said.
Currie's coach Leigh Barker had played a huge part in helping her stay focused after the earthquake.
"Leigh gave up many hours of his own time to coach us in the cold and dark and kept us going when it got tough."
She trains daily for several hours in a mostly male squad on the Avon River in Christchurch, braving the dark, and sometimes freezing temperatures.
"We just put on more layers and go out into it."
Currie and Johnson are the only two women in the squad, which Danielle says fires their competitive spirit.
"We try to drag-race the boys. In a K2, Lucy and I are almost the same speed as Para canoer Scott Martlew and, if we beat him, we tell him he's too slow."
Currie has set her sights on the 2020 Olympics. She is keen to follow in the footsteps of Olympic gold medallist Lisa Carrington, who will compete at the open world championships in Moscow, Russia, later this year:
"So far, I have followed a similar path to Lisa and now she's the world champion, which is amazing."
Currie's coaching and on-water support is provided by Canoe Racing New Zealand, while some off-water support comes from High Performance Sport New Zealand, and she was awarded a Prime Minister's Athlete Scholarship this year. High Performance Sport NZ also provides Danielle with free access sports-health services including physio and doctors' appointments.
This is Currie's third year competing at a world championships and she is aiming high.
"Our team wants to be in the top nine under-23 K4 women in the world."
New Zealand's team leaves on Sunday for Czech Republic, where it will train and acclimatise for a month before competing at the championships in nearby Hungary over July 17-21.
- The Press