Monday, September 25, 2017
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Waka Ama teams prepare for world champs

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Tauranga has been chosen as the training ground for the seven NZ Waka Ama teams competing in the inaugural 2017 IVF Va’a World Distance Championships in Tahiti starting June 27.

The athletes came together for their final training camp with practice sessions in Pilot Bay in the weekend. 

The 2017 NZ distance teams are the Junior 19 Men and Women, Open Men and Women, Master Men and Women and the Para Va’a team.

Hosted at the Te Whetu o te Rangi Marae in Welcome Bay, the teams have been having two training sessions per day on the water as well as meetings covering logistics for their trip and what to expect in Tahiti.

The International Va’a Federation created the new world distance event so that member countries can compete against each other every two years.

Peter Cowan, a member of the NZ Adaptive team.

Para Va’a is an adaptive form of Va’a racing for para paddlers, with their race course being 18km.  The other teams compete over 27km.  Most of the races will be televised.

 “The criteria for adaptive paddling is anyone with a disability,” says Adaptive team member George Thomas.

“We get to the worlds and all get tested as we have to fit within certain parameters like any other para sport. We all range in disabilities. Some from accidents or operations.”

Peter Cowan from Napier was age 15 when he was hit by a truck while riding his bike. He had to make the decision to have his leg amputated, and he’s now 21 and competing with the Adaptive team.

The Adaptive team members - Ryan Pearce, George Thomas, Jo Pikia, A J MacDonald, Brent Lynn, Peter Cowan, Wayne Trott.

Roni Nuku from Napier is coach of the Adaptive team.

“This is my second year coaching the NZ Adaptive team,” says Roni. “Last year we went to the World Sprints on the Sunshine Coast. It was the first time taking a team over and it was really good to experience what it’s like to be racing and to be on that start line. And of course we want to beat the Aussies. They are way ahead of us in terms of the great network of support they have for the para-athletes. So we went for a look-see. But we came home with five medals, including our first gold for the 500m sprint with AJ McDonald, who is visually impaired. And George Thomas got a silver in the same event.”

Roni had friends who had lost limbs.

“A good friend of ours was in a wheelchair. He fell off a mountain in 2006 and then when he came to live in Napier, we got him on the water and now he’s out of his wheelchair. He used to be a surfer when he was young and he’s now in his late 60’s.”

Members of the NZ Master’s Mens team - Richard Pehi, Michael Rogerson, Paddy Rimene, Greg Jones, Tonga White, Jason Eruera, Paora McGrath.

“We’ve got mostly members from around this area,” says NZ Master Women’s Manager Lynette Tyrrell. “Also from Napier, Rotorua and Whangarei. They have to fund themselves. They do get a contribution from Waka Ama New Zealand as a paddler and the rest they have to come up with themselves. Out of their own pocket. Or if they get time between training they can fundraise.”

The entry fee to the world championship event is $100 USD per competitor.

“These ladies are doing the same training every day,” says Lynette. “They do land training, following a program given to them by their coach Turi Hodges. And they also do water training. They keep a diary and we try and get together once a month for a training camp. We’ve moved the training weekends around, so if there’s a regatta on somewhere we usually piggyback off that, as some of the clubs go to the regatta. So the next day after the regatta we’ll do a training camp, and that helps keep the costs down. But this weekend is the big one that Waka Ama New Zealand put together for us.”

Members of the NZ Master’s Womens team, from back to front - Coach Turi Hodges (at back), Toia Palmer, Lynora Hati (pink cap), Nicky Kingi (blue cap), Roni Nuku, Tui McCaull, Ngaire Pehi.

NZ Master Women’s team coach Turi Hodges connects with his team through social media which helps overcome the challenge of them being spread from Whangarei to Napier.

“They submit their training diaries once a week,” says Turi. “And let us know what their workload is, how they’re going and how they’re feeling. As well as their progression we have to keep an eye on their injury prevention.”

Members the NZ Open Men’s team (L to R) -  Tupuria King , Ash Roozendaal, Shon Siemonek, Joern Scherzer, Carl Peri, Paul Roozendaal, and Paul Chong.  

The NZ Open Men’s team has three kiwis flying over fortnightly from Australia for training. Carl Peri, Paul Chong and Shon Siemonek are self-funded, saying that Waka Ama is their passion. One of their team members is Tupuria King from Northland, NZ’s fastest paddler, and the Open Men’s spring champion for the last five years. Ash Roozendaal, a Bay of Plenty local is the youngest member of the team which also includes his uncle Paul Roozendaal.

The 2017 Inaugural IVF Va’a World Distance Championship event will be hosted in Tahiti from June 27 to June 30 2017.  The next event in 2019 will be in Australia on the Sunshine Coast. 


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