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Friday 18 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Paddling, Sports


Brutal last race at Va’a World Champs
The Open Women’s V6 24km finished in fourth place at the IVF World Champs in Apia, Samoa. CICA/23081613

It was a ‘brutal race’ in the Open Men’s V6 24-kilometre race on the last day of the International Va’a Federation (IVF) World Paddling Distance Championships in Apia, Samoa yesterday.

The Cook Islands men’s V6 finished with five in the team with a gutsy effort.

Despite the setbacks, the national teams performed well pushing through the pain and with determination managed respectable finishes in their respective events.

Yesterday morning, Phil Ave finished in an impressive fifth place in the singles V1 M50 16km race.

Two days ago, in an exhilarating display of strength and teamwork, the Open Women’s V6 24-kilometre race saw the Cook Islands giving it their all in a supreme effort, finishing in fourth place, just missing out on the bronze. Twenty crews had lined up for the highly anticipated race, which consisted of two lap courses out of Apia harbour into the ocean, a 2km circuit, in scorching hot conditions that left crews exhausted at the finish line.

Serena Hunter, coach of the women’s team, said Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States took an early lead with Hawaii chasing in third.

The Cooks made a move from the pack of canoes to establish itself in fourth place for much of the race. 

“Working hard and solid paddling from the team in super-hot conditions, with Australia hot on their heels,” said Hunter.

She said the women enjoyed a little respite in the surf leg back to the harbour, maintaining the push to finish only about 500m behind Hawaii’s crew of Molokai Champions, in a time of 2.12.45 hours.  

“Our Cook Islands supporters were very vocal on the live feed of the race, seeing the Cookie girls up there in the top five and looking so strong. 

“A very impressive effort given the calibre of what was ahead of them, teams USA, NZ and Hawaii all with very experienced crews/water women, including Olympians in Team USA, and world champion paddlers in the top three crews.

“The Cooks set the standard for the South Pacific crews also, first ahead of other South Pacific countries including Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.”

For the women in the national team this was their first World Champs, and for some their first international event.

“I’m super proud and so happy for the crew. They paddled with so much heart it gave me goosebumps just watching their race,” said Hunter.

“I’m so proud and happy for the ladies. They have all worked super hard and they deserve this result.”

Talissa Koteka, steerer of the open women’s team, said the sun was so hot, not what they were used to training at home in the cold for the last couple of months.

“The heat was tough, but, the girls did well considering, and stayed strong,” said Koteka.

“We had a strong start, and there was a bit of a collision shortly after we took off, where one of the other boats hit into our boat but we managed to get out of the ruckus.

“It was definitely a tough race, in unfamiliar waters, the majority of us having never competed internationally and up against elite paddlers from all over the world (some Olympians), we worked really hard to maintain our placing.

“Solid stroking and working together as a team to maintain over the 24km course. The conditions were perfect though, compared to what some of the races have had earlier in the week. We had a good upwind run, and some beautiful surf.”

Junior paddler Aleida Tere performed extremely well, finishing fifth in the V1 Juniors U16 12km race – her first world champs under her belt as V1 paddler and as the steerer for the V6 team who claimed bronze earlier this week.

Junior girl paddler Aleida Tere placed 5th in her singles v1 juniors 12k race, and her proud mum Jenna Tere. CICA/ 23081605

Her mother Jenna Tere, who is also manager of the junior team, was blown away with her daughter’s race results.

“Fifth placing is amazing, it has been challenging for her trying to schedule her V1 training around all her V6 trainings, so this result is huge for us.”

Coach Hunter said: “She had an awesome race, and I’m very proud of her.”

Deedee Akava pushed through the strain battling hard to the end in the junior boys J16 V1 12km, placing in ninth place.

Beal Vogel Beal also pushed through the physical demand with determination in very hot four laps just out of the harbour and back around in the M40 V1 16km, coming in at 11th place.

Beal was “stoked” with his race considering he had only started in the V1s this year.