Va'a World Sprints kick off with official opening ceremony

By Rahia Timutimu

The competition has finally opened after today's opening ceremony held in Rio de Janeiro.

Teams around the world and nearly 2000 paddlers have come to challenge the best paddlers in the world.

Among those were the 97 paddlers from NZ.  With more than 20 countries from around the word, the focus was on the NZ contingent, the biggest of the competition.

“My heart is beating, seeing all the countries here that have come to compete,” says Manuka Stirling (Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāpuhi).

After training for many months, it's only hours until these teams get on the water.

It's clear to see that all of the competitors and spectators are excited about the coming week.

Not all Māori competing will represent Aotearoa.

Tredegar Hall resides in London and despite only joining this sport last year, he will represent his second home.

“I thought at first I want to join this sport so I can get better, and that was in England, so I joined a club there.  My brother was right, that despite where you live you never lose that sense of home,” says Tredegar Hall.

NZ had kapa haka practice today which attracted many paddlers from around the world.  Hall couldn't fight off his deep yearnings to participate in the haka festivities of his home country.

"When I first saw the NZ crew my heart warmed up!  In England, I’m slowly losing my reo, and I hardly see Māori faces there, so it’s nice to come here and hear songs from home,” says Tredegar Hall.

Another big attraction were favourites Tahiti, who missed out on the last worlds two years ago in Canada, and who are determined to collect the gold this time round.

Tomorrow’s races start at 8am BRT (Brasília Time).

For official results from the races, you can check out the Va'a World Sprint Championships website.