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Expected blow still painful

They had a pretty good idea the announcement was coming but it hurt all the same.

Gisborne waka ama representatives Raipoia Brightwell, Walton Walker and Kiwi Campbell said cancelling the sprint world championships at Hawaii this year was an expected blow amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We could see it coming,” said Brightwell, a stalwart of the Mareikura club.

“Of course, everyone's devastated.

“But waka is still going.”

Brightwell means the sport will continue for the meantime as a recreational activity and there is nothing to stop paddlers practising solo.

“We had started to take measures anyway to limit team gatherings and team training sessions.”

The Mareikura club had 25 paddlers — four crews and a solo paddler — planning to go to August's sprint world champs, as well as their families, supporters and officials.

Brightwell said it was important that people continued to get some kind of physical activity and waka ama remained ideal for that, as paddlers could easily keep their distance out on the water.

She expected people would look to next season.

Horouta Waka Hoe president Walton Walker said the organisers couldn't afford to wait much longer before making the call to cancel, because flights and accommodation needed to be locked in soon.

A lot had changed in the space of a week, as it became increasingly clear that strict measures were needed in the Covid-19 crisis to slow the spread of the virus.

The club had called off training sessions for the past week.

Horouta were spectacularly successful at the 2018 world champs in Tahiti, taking the title of best club.

They would have taken 13 crews to this year's event.

The next one is scheduled for 2022 in London.

Crews also have long-distance events to train for, after it becomes safe to run events again.

Campbell, national women's coach, said the management were, in the end, relieved.

“We had put training on hold last week, then started best hygiene practices to kick off (yesterday), which meant a self-directed programme training in isolation.

“We were grateful that the call came early and it didn't drag on any longer.”

Campbell said she would do some gardening, studying and research.

“I guess we'll have a tidy house, too.”

Solo pursuit: Waka ama will be a solo sport for the next wee while for paddlers such as Hunter Hewson. File picture by Garrick Cameron
Relieved: New Zealand women's waka ama coach Kiwi Campbell, from the Horouta club, was grateful the organisers of the sprint world championships didn't wait any longer before pulling the pin. File picture by Paul Rickard