NZ waka ama teams end 18th Va'a sprints on high

By Rahia Timutimu

Some of the fastest V6 races to be seen at the 18th IVF Va’a World Sprint Championships were held today in the final day of the competition held in Tahiti, where New Zealand won many gold medals.

Unfortunately, NZ didn’t win the overall competition as they did in 2016 at the World Sprints held in Australia.  However, the teams representing the silver fern showed just why Aotearoa is one of the strongest paddling nations in the world.

The V6 500m finals were held today, which saw 14 finals from Junior 16’s right to Master 70’s.  It saw some of NZ’s top national squads go on to win world title honours.

Puhi Kaiariki from Horouta Waka Hoe won the first gold medal today in the Junior 16 Women’s section that saw all three top places going to NZ teams.

The Gisborne-based side won this final in 2:04.27, second-placed team Okareka from Hei Matau were just behind with a time of 2:04.66, and bronze went to Tiare Maori from Te Paerangi.

The Baby Heli's from Horouta Waka Hoe found their final tough but they still came away with a bronze medal.

Ngati Rehia added another gold medal to their tally, their side, Team Taitokerau, won three golds this year, adding Master 60 V6 500m women’s final to their honours board.

Te Au Rere’s Uruhina had an amazing start to their 500m race, winning silver in the Master 40 Women’s final.

NZ took first and second in the Junior 19 section, Hinetoa from Horouta waka ama took the gold with their time of 2:00.14, Tiare Maori from Te Paerangi were a split seconds later with 2:00.52.

“Our team spirit has really been lifted because, coming from our 1000m yesterday and seeing how well they performed, we were just kind of shaken and made sure we brought out best foot forward into this race,“ says team captain Gaibreill Wainohu.

The Open Women’s race was one of the fastest women’s events in today’s races.  Kaiarahi Toa from Horouta Waka Ama took silver.

“Definitely proud about that effort today.  People won’t know much about our build-up but our club, not just our team has faced adversity this year so we really went out there with good, for our whānau that have experienced these challenging times and also for ourselves in this team,” says captain and coach Kiwi Campbell.

One of the most thrilling races of the day had to be the Open Men’s 500m final, which saw only two NZ teams in the eight team race, the other six were from Tahiti.

Mulivai from Pineula won the only medal for NZ in this race, gaining a bronze.

The focus will be on the next World Waka Ama Sprints, which will be held in Hilo, Hawaii in two years’ time.