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Thursday 19 May 2011 | Published in Regional


The Cook Islands chances of having a canoe slalom athlete at the London Olympics have now doubled with the transfer of New Zealand-born Cook Islander Bryden Nicholas to represent the Cooks.

A previous New Zealand junior and senior team member and brother of Ella Nicholas who already paddles under the Cooks banner, Bryden made the decision late last year to change.

His first international competition under the Cook Islands flag will be in Slovenia at the World Cup in June.

Making the change from the double canoe, where he clocked a top 10 result at the junior world champs, to the single kayak, Bryden hopes that he will have a realistic shot at an Olympic spot for the Cook Islands.

It depends how the other Oceania paddlers perform at the World Champs in Slovakia in September, he says .

It is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics and if Australian and New Zealand athletes are successful at this event then there is an Oceania Continental place up for grabs.

Another reason to switch countries was to support his sister Ella, who received one of five Olympic Solidarity Young Athlete Scholarships for London 2012.

It is tough for her being the lone paddler at some of these big international events and I have always helped coach her so it seemed a natural thing to do.

Despite not having the ideal training facilities in Dunedin the pair collected a share of the medals at the recent Canoe Slalom New Zealand Nationals held on the Tarawera River, Kawerau (North Island) over Easter.

The event brought together the New Zealand senior and junior teams in their last big race before their European campaign begins.

A fifth year medical student at Otago University, Bryden won the Under 23 K1 and was runner up in C2 with fellow student Shaun Higgins.

Ella, also a med student, was 4th individual K1W overall and runner up in K1 womens teams with health Science student and sister Jane.

Ella also paired with Bryden to take silver in the mixed C2.

All three Nicholas siblings are previous or current New Zealand representatives and have a home base in Tauranga.

In Dunedin the best they can do is to train regularly on the harbour and in the gym, missing training gates and rapids on a day to day basis.

Some of their training is on hold until summer and once their degrees are finished they can commit to being closer to the regular white water.

Siblings Bryden, Ella and Jane Nicholas will compete at World Cups 1 and 3 in Europe during June and July.

Bryden and Ella are representing the Cook Islands, while younger sister Jane represents New Zealand.

Ella will return to Europe for the World Champs on September 8 to 11 at the artificial Cunovo course in Bratislava which is the first opportunity to qualify an Olympic spot for London. - Sue Clarke