Support from family, friends and fellow athletes meant that Serena was able to dedicate herself to the training and commitment required, and following months of intensive training, Serena completed the grueling channel crossing in just under 5 hours, and placed 6th overall, the first Cook Islands woman to complete a solo crossing. Three weeks later, Serena headed to PNG with her oe vaka crew for the Pacific Games, and won a gold medal in the V1 10km ahead of Tahiti and New Caledonia in an event traditionally dominated by Tahiti. Serena also won a bronze medal in the V1 500m, and joined her teammates to take out silver in the V6 20k, winning a trifecta medal haul for the 2015 Pacific Games.
Two weeks following the Games, Serena headed to Tahiti to compete in Te Aito, which is the premier V1 rudderless race in the region, where she placed 10th overall and 1st in the masters division.
It was also a year where Serena utilised her skills in the development of other athletes, coaching her Ngakau Toa women’s crew for the annual Vaka Eiva, where her crew won the V6 18k iron race, and also won the prestigious Pacific Paddle for the changes race for the 2nd year in a row.
Serena also competed in the V1 12k race placing 2nd overall and 1st masters. Serena also continued her support of the youth development programme coaching Te Uki Ou and Papaaroa schools for the annual Vaka Iti competition. For the purposes of the 2015 National Sports Awards, Cook Islands Canoeing Association along with the team leader for the 2015 Oe Vaka Team is nominating Serena for two awards – Sportswoman of the Year and the Woman in Sports Trophy.
Serena demonstrates the dedication and willingness of a true athlete and paddler. Her performance at the 2015 Pacific Games and at the Molokai solo has unquestionably promoted our sport and the status of Cook Islands paddling.
Serena strives to promote women’s participation in paddling events. As a coach of the Ngakau Toa women’s team, and as an acclaimed athlete in other sports, she not only supports woman through competition but Serena also instils in them a sense of wellbeing and confidence as women in sport.
Serena has been able to keep focused and push herself to the limit in oe vaka at the same time attending to the needs of her family of two adult sons and two primary school aged daughters. In addition she manages a successful family business.
Serena is truly a role model and woman to be admired and respected by all women and mothers but also by the Cook Islands community. The Cook Islands Canoeing Association is very privileged and honoured to have Serena as one of its own.