Marama Elkington's win was celebrated with a haka by whānau and friends after beating long-time Tahitian champion Hinatea Bernadino in the Open Women 500m Sprint today. With only a tenth of a second between Elkington and Bernadino, supporters cried tears of joy as the humble paddler was welcomed through the holding tent met with hugs and kisses.
Ōtaki paddler Ngahuia Henare says she's proud of all the paddlers from home, especially the Junior Women. But maintains the Tahitians are still the ones to beat.
"Stoked man, especially our Juniors! They're really pushing it but Tahiti stepped up," says Henare.
Taniwhā Outrigger Canoe Club coach and paddler Sugar Te Paa admits Waka Ama is to Tahiti, what Rugby us to Aotearoa.
"They're the All Blacks of Waka and that happened to be the All Black team out there in our hear so we're humbled to be where we came," says Te Paa.
Graham Payn from Whakatū missing out by two seconds for a bronze behind the Tahitians placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
"That was absolutely amazing, don't do that every day with Tahitians that's for sure," says Payn.
His mind focused on the race, but his heart is at home.
"To my boys, Joshua, Hayden and Leighton, thinking of you guys today. I know it's very important to you guys and my heart is with you guys."
The whānau from Whakatū Marae are mourning a loved one today who was being buried within hours of Payn's race.