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Medals for Cook Islands Oe Vaka at World Champs

Wednesday 16 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Paddling, Sports


Medals for Cook Islands Oe Vaka at World Champs
The Cook Islands Junior received their IVF world paddling bronze medals at the prize giving awards yesterday in Apia, Samoa. JENNA TERE/23081604

Team Cook Islands achieved podium finishes at the 2023 International Va’a Federation (IVF) World Paddling Distance Championships in Apia, Samoa.

The Cook Islands Canoeing Association (CICA) has 28 paddlers representing the country at the event being held from August 10-19.

Yesterday morning, Serena Hunter claimed a silver medal in the M50 V1 16-kilometre women’s race. This is her second silver medal at a World Champs.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Nicky Kingi won the gold, and Cook Islander Mata Pokia received the bronze for Australia in third place.

Hunter had been looking forward to a good battle with Kingi since they have raced in the inaugural IVF Long Distance Champs in Tahiti in 2017.

“It was a tough race,” said Hunter, who had been hoping for the ocean course, but, after some canoe carnage in the ocean two days ago, the races were moved to laps inside reef.

Tara Lee Cummings placed in the top 10 in the women’s v1 singles finishing in 9th place. CICA/2305

“So it was a tough course, just work work. I felt good, at the first lap I was some 30 seconds behind Nicky of NZ.”

Hunter had a good feeling into the second lap but unfortunately a couple of kilometres out she said the canoe felt very heavy.

“It had taken in water in the bulkhead, so it was just a slog to the finish line.

“I paddled my hardest out there and hope I did the Cooks proud.

“I’m proud of our juniors winning bronze in their race with an exciting finish with the Samoan team. And looking forward to seeing our open women’s and men’s V6 teams in action.”

Two days ago, the Junior Under-16 V6 girls managed a bronze medal in the 16km race.

Junior team manager Jenna Tere said this was the first time for a junior V6 team to make the podium at the World Champs.

“We are very stoked and so proud of our girls,” said Tere.

The juniors had held second place for most of the race with Samoa close behind the whole way.

“It was a race to the finish, one they won’t forget, and it definitely gave the crowd some good entertainment, with Samoa on the outside bumping our girls vaka, and Samoa crossing just in front of us.

“The girls have trained hard and we are super proud we were able to take a full Cook Islands based team over.”

This was the first international race for all the girls in the team and it won’t be their last, said Tere.

“It has been great seeing all the talent and to gauge where our juniors are at in the world.

“We are obviously on the right track and our junior development is looking very promising. Thank you to our clubs and CICA for supporting, coaching and guiding us along the way,” said Tere.

A member of the team Pourie Kaina said making the podium was very emotional.

A silver medal for Serena Hunter in the 2023 IVF World Paddling Distance Champs. Hunter is pictured with her son Teava and the Cook Islands oe vaka team. SUPPLIED/23081506

“Our competitors were tough, but we all knew to keep pushing through. Being neck to neck with Samoa for the finish was so intense, but we are still proud we have made history making it to the podium.

“We are all proud and thankful for representing our homeland, the Cook Islands, in a sport that we love. We would like to thank our family and friends for being there and supporting all of us since day one.

“Also, a special meitaki maata to our coaches Tara Lee Cummings and Tangata Fletcher Melvin, meitaki korereka e Kia Orana.”

Kaina is looking forward to watching their Junior V1 paddlers Aleida Tere and Tiaiti Akava racing on Thursday.

On day one of racing, Tara Lee Cummings placed in the top 10 of her V1 race coming finishing in ninth spot. Andre Tutaka George was gutted to have to retire from the Open Men’s V1 16km race due to a broken canoe. A Tahitian paddler also ended up with a broken canoe.