Kayaking: Youth Olympics stepping stone to Tokyo in 2020

Kensa Randle.
Kensa Randle.
Kensa Randle is on her way to her goal of competing in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Earnscleugh youth is the only New Zealand kayaker to be selected for the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, later this month.

Kensa, who felt ''slightly overwhelmed, but excited and nervous'' when she got the news, will compete in two events, the K1 slalom, and the K1 sprint, both flat-water events.

''It has not really hit me yet because I don't know anyone who is in the team ... It will sink in when I'm in Auckland airport and about to leave.''

Competing in the games would give her valuable experience against international athletes, which she hoped would assist her in her goal of reaching the 2020 Olympics.

So far, she has had results such as becoming a New Zealand age-group champion three times.

Her results this year have included winning gold for the under-16 national women's K1 event, and becoming the fastest under-18, and third-fastest woman in the country for K1.

She also represented New Zealand at the under-18 world championships in Australia, where she was a semifinalist.

Despite the enjoyment she received from competing in the sport, and the individual challenge it posed, getting to the Youth Olympics was not a walk in the park.

Correspondence school allowed her to train six days a week, sometimes up to three times a day, in the water, at the gym, and running.

''It's a bit hard because of the weather, because of it being so cold [in winter], or windy, but you get through it.''

Although she had been training hard and battling a minor cold, which was not uncommon after training in the water so much, she was still nervous, she said.

''I want to do well for my country; it's very exciting. I feel like there is a standard you have to bring - that's a bit nerve-wracking.

''For me, it's always about not coming last, and any placing is a bonus.

"I will be competing against girls who are two years older than me. I will be one of the youngest in the field because I only made the age cut by nine days.''

However nervous, getting her uniform for the games had provided a thrill.

''It had about 25 items in the kit ... it was definitely one high point.

''Opening the package with all the gear was exciting. I tried it all on straight away.''

Another challenge in getting to the games was funding.

Because kayaking was a minor sport, it did not receive funding from the government, Kensa said.

At present, she was fund raising to pay for the trip to China for her and a support person from the kayaking community.

Kensa leaves for Nanjing on August 12, before the opening ceremony of the games on August 16.

She arrives back in New Zealand on August 30.

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