Four-event challenge in Tokyo too tempting for Olympic champion

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Lisa Carrington has lined up, and knocked down, many challenges during a career lined with success.

Lisa Carrington trains at Lake Pupuke on Auckland’s North Shore.
Photo: Photosport

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And although contesting four different classes at the world’s biggest sports event dwarfs them all, the offer was simply too good to decline.

“I guess I kinda figured, if I can do it, why not try,” Carrington said after a team of four women’s canoe racers were announced in the New Zealand team for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

“No-one’s done it and it’s a big ask but why not take that opportunity and not play it too safe.

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“That’s what’s exciting. It’s about putting myself out there and doing the best I can.”

As well as her signature K1 200m and K1 500m classes, the two-time gold medallist would be part of crews for the two-person K2 500m and the four-person K4 500m.

She was set to be joined by Caitlin Regal in the K2, before they teamed up with Alicia Hoskin and Teneale Hatton to complete the Games regatta in the K4.

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Regal would also contest the K1 500m, while Hoskin and Hatton were lining up in the K2 500m.

While contesting that many events with just a four-person team wouldn’t be easy, Regal said the quartet were 100 per cent committed to maximising their chances of success.

“The way in which we are going to rally around each other to make this work for every single boat is going to be pretty cool to watch.

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“What we thought was possible two years ago, we’ve gone beyond that now.

“I know four events or three events is a lot but it’s definitely doable in this group of girls.”

Caitlin Regal, Lisa Carrington, Teneale Hatton and Alicia Hoskin at the naming of the New Zealand women's canoe sprint team for the Tokyo Olympics.

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Caitlin Regal, Lisa Carrington, Teneale Hatton and Alicia Hoskin at the naming of the New Zealand women’s canoe sprint team for the Tokyo Olympics.
Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

In Carrington’s case, the juggling act she faced was not unprecedented.

The 31-year-old had contested all four events at both the 2017 and 2018 world championships – medalling in all four on each occasion.

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“The first time was really scary because the most events I’d done was two, and I thought that was tough,” she said.

“In saying that, it really came down to following the plan. Making sure I followed that plan, did things well, and recovered well, that type of thing.”

Still, Carrington knew doing it on the biggest stage of all was a different story.

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As did coach Gordon Walker.

“She can do it physically but then the Olympics is just a different beast.

“If you win a medal you don’t know how you’re going to feel. Suddenly you get taken on this rollercoaster you didn’t plan on going on. It’s the ability to deal with those emotions.

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“It’s a tight schedule but what we can’t predict entirely is exactly how people will feel.”

Also unknown was exactly what an Olympics would be like in a country still battling the impact of a global pandemic.

Walker said the “bubble to bubble” type environment presented a significant extra challenge.

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“Our mission is to get them to the start line.

“If we can get them to the start line, and they’re paddling like they were this morning then we’ll be ok.”

Canoe Sport New Zealand and coach Gordon Walker have been criticised for a toxic and manipulative environment in the sport.

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Gordon Walker and Lisa Carrington.
Photo: Photosport

Carrington was confident that would happen.

Even if many in Japan continued to call for the Games to be postponed for a second time.

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“The NZOC and IOC are doing their best to keep us safe and keep the Japanese people safe, as well.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in them that they’ll give us the right type of protocols and things to do that.”

It meant Carrington’s focus could be entirely on the task she had been set in Tokyo.

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A task tailor-made for a two-time Olympic champion.

“We didn’t dream this up overnight, it’s something we’ve been preparing for over the last four years.

“I’ve had a lot of time to figure out if I can do it and each World Champs and each year goes by and it’s like, ‘ok, this thing is becoming more real’.

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“I guess the idea is I don’t want to limit myself.”

Having become the first Kiwi woman to win multiple medals at one Olympics in Rio – Lisa Carrington is ready to re-write the history books once again.

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