“After watching my father participate for several years, I have always aspired that one day I would too have the opportunity to participate in the Vaka Eiva, and get the same enjoyment that he has shared with me,” she wrote via email before arriving on Rarotonga from her native Rotorua.
In her last year at John Paul College, Timoti has already enjoyed a prolific racing career, including but not limited to 11 gold medals and 10 silver medals at national and international racing events.
In 2015, she won her first two gold medals; the following year she won fourth in her division at national sprint races, placed third in the OC1 open women relay, and won gold with her team at the Takapuna Beach Cup. Later that year, in 2016, Timoti placed second in the IVF Va’a World Championships in the 500m course and her team placed third and fourth in sprint races.
At New Zealand’s Long Distance Nationals, she won silver medals in both an OC1 and a W1—New Zealand’s term for a V1, or a rudderless vaka—and then became a top regional qualifier in the 500m sprint.
Last year, Timoti won four medals at Te Wananga O Aotearoa Waka Ama National Sprint Championships, two at Takapuna Beach Cup, and two at the New Zealand Long Distance Nationals. She placed first at the Air Tahiti Nui Aotearoa Aito short course and was a regional top qualifier at Te Puku O Te Ika.
Earlier this year, she won bronze in the New Zealand qualifier for a world event in Tahiti and gold in the 250m sprints for her age group; placed third and then fourth in events at the Takapuna Beach Cup; and was selected for the World
Va’a Elite Squad as well as the Premier Women’s Elite Squad. She also won gold in the Secondary School Championships.
At this year’s IVF World Va’a Championships in Tahiti, she won three gold and two silver medals. She also set a new world record in the New Zealand Elite 1000m sprints.
All of this is only a partial list of Timoti’s achievements in her sport.
Her interest in paddling began with her father, who also paddles. She began participating at the age of 11 and two years later joined Hei Matau Paddlers, which gave her the opportunity to race long distance and sprint courses.
She now paddles eight times a week, in addition to gym and swim workouts, and when she can, plays basketball, sevens, and water polo.
“At times it can be a challenge,” she admitted, “but with my supportive family behind me every step of the way, [I] prioritise time and plan a set schedule of training, study, and social time for each week.”
As is the Cook Islands way, she puts her family first, crediting her parents and extended family with not only introducing her to paddling but also encouraging her in all her training, racing, and mental preparation.
“My inspiration to train and continue to progress is definitely my family,” she wrote. “To see the amount of dedication that they too put into my successes. By this I mean how my parents inspire me to keep going and pushing to work hard to achieve my goals along with the amount of time and effort that they pour into seeing me succeed is what motivates me. “
Timoti trains on a lake in Rotorua, where conditions are unpredictable. The most challenging part of paddling, she finds, is mustering the motivation to get to training.
She finds training and racing both peaceful and exciting.
“Being out there on the water in a team or on a single, you’re always working towards a bigger goal [and] the thrill and adrenaline that runs through you during racing is an amazing feeling,” she wrote. Beyond the physical and mental benefits of paddling, Timoti enjoys the fellowship and camraderie of fellow paddlers, not only her teammates but also the athletes she meets competing at national and international races.
Vaka Eiva has always been a dream for her. She’s looking forward to the big ocean swells, adrenaline packed racing environment, and specifially, the Round Rarotonga Relay Race—a highlight for many new and returning paddlers.
Her other dreams include attending university to study health, sport and human performance; to compete in the Molokai crossing; and to keep paddling around the world at an intense and competitive level.