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CHAMPION CLUB: Horouta Waka Hoe paddlers, celebrating their successesat a club barbecue, pose for a picture with the carved trophy awarded to the clubgaining most points at the annual waka ama national sprint championships.Pictures by Cynthia Sidney
ONE-TWO-THREE: Horouta paddlers filled the first three places in the premier women’s W1 500-metre race. Celebrating after the final are (from left):Cory Campbell (second), Rose King (third) and Akayshia Williams (first).
CHAMPION CREW: Kaiarahi Toa coach and steerer Kiwi Campbell (right) signals to the crowd as her crew paddle the last few metres of their premier women’s W12 500m final. The other members of the gold-medal-winning crew, made up of Kaiarahi Toa and Kaiarahi Toa Prospectors, are (not in order pictured): Akayshia Williams, Briar McLeely, Cory Campbell, Gaibreill Wainohu, Keri Ngatoro, Makayla Timoti, Ranelle Nikora, Rangi-Riana Williams, Rose King, Sieda Tureia and Te Aomihia Pewhairangi.

WAKA AMA by John Gillies

CHALLENGES have been met and more lie ahead for Horouta Waka Hoe paddlers still glowing from their success at the Waka Ama New Zealand National Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro.

Horouta won the club points trophy for the 10th time in the 11 years it has been contested. The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on preparations made it one of the most challenging campaigns.

For much of the week-long championships, Manukau Outrigger Canoe Club – the only other club to have won the points trophy – looked to be in a position to challenge for overall honours.

“They were picking up a few gold medals, and we didn’t feel comfortable about the outcome until the last day,” Horouta club president Walton Walker said.

But on that last day Horouta finished with a flourish. Kiwi Campbell’s Kaiarahi Toa crew won the premier women’s W6 500-metre and 1500m races, and Akayshia Williams won the premier women’s W1 250m dash.

The Woolley Kumaras were second in the premier men’s W6 500m, and Tane Uehaa were second in the senior master men’s W6 1000m.

Hinewai Ariki were third in the golden master women’s W6 1000m, and Anaru Paenga-Morgan was third in the under-19 men’s W1 250m dash.

The best single-race points return was in the premier women’s W1 500m final on the Wednesday, when Horouta paddlers Akayshia Williams, Cory Campbell and Rose King finished first, second and third respectively.

Horouta had 11 gold-medal finishes. All but one of them were secured by female teams or individuals. Six came as a result of clean sweeps by two teams – the J16 women’s team Puhi Kai Ariki in the W6 500m, the W6 1000m and, together with Puhi Kai Moana, the W12 500m; and premier women’s team Kaiarahi Toa in the 500m, 1500m and, with Kaiarahi Toa Prospectors, the W12 500m. Three more came from individual efforts – Akayshia Williams in the premier women’s W1 250m dash and 500m; and Kiwi Campbell in the master women’s W1 500m.

The solitary male gold medal was won by Taitama (midget boys) team 6 Mullets in the W6 250m. Their female counterparts – Hinekahurangi Ariki, in the Taitamahine W12 250m – completed the list of Horouta gold-medal-winners.

But not all outstanding performances earned a gold medal. The Woolley Kumaras’ second placing in the premier men’s W6 500m was noteworthy because they were able to train as a full squad only a few days before the championships.

A golden master women’s team who trained together for five weeks under Mihi Aston won bronze in the W6 1000m and silver in the W12 500m.

“The J16 boys, Tama Kiterangi, went under the radar but had two medal finishes – silver in the double-hull (W12 500m) and bronze in the W6 500m,” Walker said.

Hard-luck stories abounded. Strong winds buffeted midget crews that were among the fastest in the heats, and they were disqualified when they were blown out of their lanes.

Walker said adult crews were turning their attention to longer distances now.

However, teenaged paddlers still had the National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships – over sprint distances – to look forward to. These would be held on Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) from March 23 to 26.

Lytton, Gisborne Girls’ and Gisborne Boys’ high schools, Tolaga Bay Area School and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga, TKKM o Hawaiki Hou and TKKM o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou were expected to send teams, and interest had also been shown by a group of paddlers from Ruatoria, Walker said.

The long-distance nationals are set for the South Island, off Picton, on April 23.

A possible build-up race, closer to home, is the Mokotahi Hoe at Te Mahia on March 28, with distances of five kilometres for W12 double-hulled craft, and 10km or 20km for W6 waka ama.

In May, the Whaingaroa Hoe will be held at Raglan. With the option of 8km or 20km races, this event is targeted by many paddlers wanting to maintain fitness over winter.

With the prospect of next year’s sprint nationals doubling as qualifiers for the world titles in London in 2022, year-round activity might be the preparation teams are seeking.

A story featuring the outlook for Mareikura Waka Ama Club will follow