Europe calls young paddlers

07 July 2018

The journey to Europe began for Whanganui's latest New Zealand kayaking representatives Liam Lace and Jack Clifton on Friday.
PHOTO / Bevan Conley

They are the two latest young men in growing queue of local paddlers who have taken their first steps to Europe from Whanganui Airport.

Whanganui High School teenagers Jack Clifton and Liam Lace flew out of Whanganui on Friday to connect with their Auckland Airport flight to the Northern Hemisphere for the 2018 ICF canoe sprint junior and under-23 world championships.

The pair are part of a more "stream lined" New Zealand team of four competitors in the Under 18 grade and four more in the Under 23 grade, which includes another Whanganui exponent in junior world champs veteran Max Brown.

After a two week training camp in France, the New Zealanders will head to Plovdiv in Bulgaria, where Lace and Clifton will be part of the K4 500m crew, while Clifton will also race as part of the K2 1000m.

Under coach Brian Scott, they have been training since the callup in April, despite some challenging cool weather conditions on the Whanganui River this winter.

"Just quite cold," Clifton shrugged.

"Pretty glassy, nice and flat," Lace added.

Their first international competition was in May at the Asia Pacific Sprint Cup at the canoe sprint regatta in Adelaide, where they won gold and silver in the K4 500m and 1000m respectively, while Clifton also got two silvers in the K2 races.

But the long journey to Plovdiv is a very different proposition.

"Definitely a lot more nerves than last time," said Clifton."

"Eastern European countries are on a whole different level of paddling," said Lace.

Brown and the rest of the Under 23 team are already in France and have been training with their national team.

Scott said Brown will get to race at the upcoming French national championships, which is an unusual opportunity as foreign competitions usually got get to take part.

"The boys have a French coach, Frederic Loyer, who may have opened some doors."

When they arrive, Lace and Clifton will have about a day to link up with Brown before he competes, and then both squads will move onto Plovdiv.

They can ask any questions of their townmate then as Brown has competed in Europe at Under 18 and Under 23 level before.

Clifton's primary concern for being a young man so far from home is the language barrier.

"It's the heat for me – just getting used to below 15 degrees training [here], then crack into the 30's." said Lace.

Clifton's family was there to see him off from Whanganui Airport while Lace's parents were already visiting in Auckland and so will go to the airport there to send him off.

The junior world champs are July 26-29.

By Jared Smith
Wanganui Chronicle 7/7/18