'Something in the water'ELTON SMALLMAN
Ngaruawahia is producing some of New Zealand's best young waka ama paddlers as teams prepare for this year's Va'a World Sprints in Canada next month.
Crews are made up of six paddlers and the Waikato-based teams are chock-full of Ngaruawahia locals. Waki Simon, one of the coaches, said it was just something in the water.
"There are five teams we are training up and there are about 25 Ngaruawahia kids heading over."
Children in Ngaruawahia grow up swimming and paddling kopapa canoes in the town's two rivers and Mr Simon said it makes sense to develop their skills for the international scene.
"Our kids are river kids," he said. "They have been on the kopapa for years so let's take it international and to waka ama."
The Ngaruawahia community established Turangawaewae Waka Sports Club five years ago with the aim of developing the local talent and it has been the secret to their success.
"It's just a good family feeling and all of the support from Waikato-Tainui is just magic and the Ngaruawahia community has been right behind it too."
Te Waimaarino Patena, 19, will be paddling with the J19 women's team in Canada.
Although training was tough, she said, they had to do the hard yards to succeed.
"We have to challenge ourselves," she said. "The work is challenging but we have to overcome it and we just work harder and do extra on top of our training."
The crews have been put through their paces with hill running and cross-fit classes and now, with just weeks left until raceday, they are fine-tuning their race strategy.
"Two months ago, we had to wake up early in the freezing cold and run up Hakarimata and that was hard," she said. "We are focusing on the water now because we only have four weeks to go, so it's all water stuff."
The Tahitians are always a threat in the world sprints but Patena said they had to watch the Canadians as well because they had the benefit of local knowledge.
"They have the advantage of paddling on their own lake but hopefully we will adapt well."
The J19 women's team are keeping their competitive edge by challenging the boys at every training, and they plan to bring home the silverware from Canada.
"We're not just planning to win but to break the world record, and if we do, we get to keep our paddles," Patena said.
The 2012 Va'a World Sprints will be held on 11-15 August in Calgary, Canada.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Are you happy for the Chiefs to be called the Gallagher Chiefs from 2016