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Wednesday 2 March 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Other Sports, Sports


Cook Islands Olympian digs in for next challenge
Cook Islands canoe slalom athlete Jane Nicholas. ICF/21050740

Cook Islands 2020 Sportswoman of the Year Dr Jane Nicholas debated the big question in front of her following her outing at the Tokyo Olympics

While in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) following the games the Cook Islands canoe slalom athlete asked herself what the future will hold for her in terms of the next Olympics.  

With Covid-19 sanctions it was always going to be difficult to train and get to international events in the short term, so when asked to be the sole female athlete in a GODzone team of four, it was “just what the doctor ordered” to keep her fit, strong and motivated ahead of Paris 2024.

Nicholas has continued her disciplined training schedule while balancing orthopaedic registrars’ responsibilities at Tauranga Hospital.

That training regime takes in various locations ranging “from bush to rivers, to sea”.

“It’s pretty good but with also working full time, it’s challenging,” she said.   

Meanwhile, the GODzone Pursuit is a challenging adventure race with teams travelling more than 650 kilometres across New Zealand’s wilderness for up to nine days.

This year will mark the tenth anniversary for the world class event and is appropriately named The Traverse, as the course will take teams from one coast of New Zealand to the other.

The field of almost 100 teams competing in GODZone arrive in Wanaka on Thursday for the official team registration and gear check.

Teams have just been advised the race commences with kayaking in Milford Sound.

While this starting point is familiar ground for Nicholas the rest of the course is largely unknown to her

"You just have to get to the start line and go from there."

The race involves canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. 

It is essential to have one team member with good navigation skills as the course is navigated with only a compass and topographical map - no electronic devices or GPS allowed.

Nicholas said: "For this race team, work is essential, no matter how fit, strong or skilled you are, there will come a time in the nine days where you will need to depend on your team mates to help get you through.

“We all excel in different areas and bring different strengths to the table."

This gruelling event is split into 13 legs of racing with participants covering a total elevation of 11,450 metres.

One of those legs is a 170 km mountain bike, while another is a 56km hike, or bush bashing climb, over a 3700m elevation.

The longest kayak is 38km, quite different to Jane’s sub 300m canoe slalom racing course.

“I’m used to training and working fulltime, but this has been an added challenge fitting in endurance training across the various disciplines of the race.

“I've enjoyed the variation in training alongside my team mates while getting out in nature exploring different parts of the North Island."

Working night shifts in her job and existing on a “lack of sleep” will be helpful for Jane as over the race, participants will be lucky to get four hours sleep a night in order to meet the cut off deadlines at various stages and to finish the race.

"The race covers a huge number of kilometres and will be a big challenge for me, nothing like I have ever done before, even getting to the finish line will be a massive achievement"

As for the future, Nicholas said she will be back into her slalom boat after GODzone with her compass set firmly on the Olympics 2024.

It’s possible to follow all teams on line with Jane’s team aptly named Jane and the Tarzans.  Check them out on Instagram also.