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Marama reigns supreme

IT’S today New Zealand, tomorrow the world for Mareikura teen sensation Marama Elkington after retaining the premier women’s W1 crown at the waka ama sprint nationals.

Elkington led a Te Uranga o te Ra regional charge in the W1 500 metres races yesterday— Mareikura and Horouta Waka Hoe club members claiming six gold, four silver and three bronze medals on a fog and weed-affected morning on Lake Karapiro.

Racing was delayed three hours because of the fog and the need to clear weed. Once it got under way, Te Uranga o te Ra paddlers went about the job of making finals, and adding medals to the region’s and their respective club’s proud history.

Elkington underlined her quest for glory at the IVF Va’a World Sprints Champs on Australia’s Sunshine Coast in May with a successful defence of the premier women’s title. The 17-year-old covered the distance in 2 minutes 31.37 seconds, heading off Rose King (Horouta Waka Hoe, 2:32.90), with Marianna Hodges (Porirua, 2:36.58) third.

King was fastest in qualifying but Elkington, who has been training in Gisborne under Matahi Brightwell since the start of December, controlled the final, storming home in the last 50 metres.

Two-time premier champion and New Zealand elite women’s coach Kiwi Campbell (Hor) was fourth in 2:36.98 and clubmate Sieda Tureia was seventh. Campbell’s husband Bruce was sixth in the premier men’s final won by Tupu King of Northland club Nga Hoe Horo.

Kelsey Teneti (Hor) started the region’s golden charge with a 4½-second win in the intermediate women’s final. Manaakiao (Hor) made it an intermediate double with a convincing win, finishing 6.27secs clear of the field in repeating his 2015 performance. Kitini Taihuka (Marei), in his first year competing in W1, was third.

After settling for second in the past two nationals, Tia Akurangi (Marei) went one better in the junior 16 women’s final — one of the races of the day.

Akurangi led a Gisborne treble as less than half a second separated the top three. Akurangi won in 2:42.41 from Rangi-Riana Williams (Marei) in 2:42.60 and Gabreill Wainohu (Hor) in 2:42.87.

The junior women’s 19 final was another regional clean sweep. Akayshia Williams (Marei) completed a hat-trick of consecutive J19 titles in 2:30.49, with Cory Campbell (Hor) second in 2:32.03 and twin sister Kodi (Hor) third, just 0.22 of a second back.

Seven of the eight finalists are members of Mareikura or Horouta.

Halecia Gardiner-Pomare (Hor) continued the gold rush in the u23 women’s division with a 1.2-second win — her first W1 medal and reward for her intensive preparation. Two-time premier women’s champion and 2012 world champion Vesna Radonich (Hor) was second in the master (over-40s) women’s final convincingly won by Nicky Kingi (Ruamata).

Gisborne could claim a seventh gold medal. Mareikura stalwart Raipoia Brightwell, who is racing for Rotorua club Ruamata as part of a crew bidding to make the world champs, won the golden master (over-60s) women’s final.

Waka Ama NZ deputy chairman Tim Marshall, of Gisborne, said organisers did extremely well on what was a challenging day. Racing started three hours later than scheduled but they managed to get through the 109-race programme as quickly as possible, and wrapped the day’s racing up at 6.15pm – 50 minutes over the scheduled time.

Day 5 dawned clear today, with another full programme of W6 and W12 racing from junior to golden masters age groups.