Thursday 26 April 2012 | Published in Regional
Plunging into the freezing Wellington Harbour at Porirua spurred local paddler Sani Sosene on to a podium finish at the New Zealand long distance outrigger championships on Sunday.
The 57-year-old paddler took out gold in the senior masters division of the V1 15km race in Wellington where he had spent two weeks acclimatising before the event.
Dressed in a long sleeved rash shirt to keep the chill away and his Te Tupu O Te Manava outrigger club gear, Sosene lined up alongside 46 other paddlers for the long distance race.
Sosene says he got off to an excellent start leading the way in his age division to the 7.5km turn buoy but on the return leg Sosene took a plunge into the freezing water.
“About 50 meters after the turn I flipped –I don’t flip at home!” says Sosene.
“The water was like ice but it livened up the senses!”
The grandfather says while he was in the freezing water, the chasing paddler in his age grade passed him.
“The guy overtook me and gave me this big smile when he went past!”
Sosene pulled himself back into his canoe and began the chase on the homeward leg.
“I had to paddle faster to keep warm!” recalls Sosene.
Just over a kilometre and a half from the finish line – Sosene pulled in the lead paddler.
“When I went past him I gave him a smile back,” laughs Sosene.
He reckons his time in the water cost him between three and four minutes but despite that he battled back to the lead to take the gold medal in a time of 1.33.
“The guy that overtook me but came second said to me that he thought I was diving for kina when he went past! I told him nah, I was diving for paua!”
Sosene says that while he donned his local club colours for the long distance race – he was representing the Cooks and fellow paddlers at the event all knew he was from the islands.
As soon as he received his medal – Sosene was on the plane and headed back to the warm and tropical Cook Islands.
Sosene says getting to the race and winning gold would not have been possible without the support of his wife and family, sponsors Hori Signs, Cook Islands Water Services, Turtles, Te Tupu O Te Manava Outrigger Club and everyone who made donations for his trip.
Sosene would also like to say a big meitaki maata to his fellow paddlers Annie Fisher, Liz Tama and Mark Cowan who leant him their vaka to train in before the New Zealand race.
Meanwhile Papa Sani says he will take a bit of a break before getting back on the vaka in warmer conditions.