First day of IVF Waka Ama Worlds brings first golds for NZ

By Rahia Timutimu

New Zealand elite teams were out in force today, racing the best paddlers of the competition.

The first race was the Elite Men’s V12.  Unfortunately NZ just missed out on gold, claiming silver instead.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more effort from the boys,” says coach and paddler Mark Malaki-Williams, “it was pretty good conditions, pretty fair conditions, but it came down to the last five metres and unfortunately we fell back on the other side."

Soon after was the Elite Women’s V12 final featuring NZ, who won the title at the last Waka Ama World Champs held in Australia.

They repeated that achievement this year, winning gold once again.

“It's pretty surreal right now, it hasn’t really sunk in,” says coach and paddler Kiwi Campbell, “We’ve got a pretty hard task here in Tahiti. One, it being the home of wakas, and two, backing up and defending out title.  You just have to get a bit of young muscle in there and pull the old girls through.”

And the Elite Junior Women’s team followed the Elite Women’s example, winning gold as well in the V6 500m.

“It's amazing.  The hot weather makes it better, and the atmosphere and vibe intensifies it.  Off the start it was a bit hectic because there was a black flag up and we pushed past it heading into the 250 metres.  It was a bit heavy but then we picked it up,” says paddler Makayla Timoti.

That wasn't the case for the Elite Junior Men, winning silver in their V6 500m race.

“It was good.  I really felt the boys putting in the effort.  That was the best race we could race but congrats to Tahiti, I was happy with that.  We felt everyone was in time and sync,” says paddler Keanu Wainohu-Kemp.

Tomorrow is the last day for Elite races before the start of club races.