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Wednesday 19 August 2009 | Published in Regional


Friday 14: Cook Islands canoe sprinter Joshua Utanga has made it through to the semi finals of the men’s K1 1000m at the 2009 World Canoe Sprint Championships in Halifax, Canada.

Utanga automatically qualified for the semi finals by finishing 6th in his heat which also saw New Zealander Steven Ferguson finish 2nd.

In his first ever competi-tive canoe sprint race, the 21-year-old was elated by his first up effort.

“I’m pretty stoked to have made it through, but I certainly know where the bar is with so many great paddlers here,” said Utanga.

Although disappointed not to break the four minute mark, he knows there is a lot of improvement to come.

“I was pretty happy with how things went in the race, but I am determined to get my time down under 4 minutes in the semis,” he said.

One of the experiences of the race was the noise generated by the crowds at the championships.

“I could hear the crowd cheering about 300 metres from the finish and it was unbelievable.

“The closer I got to the finish line I got to the point where I could not hear myself think,” Utanga said.

The Cook Islander is also drawing plenty of support from the local crowds.

“Bit of surprise to hear people cheering for the Cook Islands but it was great.”

Utanga also competed in the K1 500m but failed to qualify for the next round finishing 8th in his heat.

This week he lines up in the men’s K1 100m semi finals and the men’s K1 200m heats.

Utanga flew out to Canada after returning from Romania where he participated in the International Canoeing Federation Talent Identification Camp where he was in the top group of paddlers there.

ICF technical director Mr Szanto was very happy with Utanga and was glad he funded him to Romania.

He was also very happy that the Cook Islands have canoe sprint and slalom paddlers competing on the world circuit with aspirations of qualifying for 2012 Olympics. - CICA