Rapid success in land of the rising sun

Photo Garrick Cameron, courtesy of IRF (International Rafting Federation

They may not come home to thousands of adoring fans at the airport but the New Zealand Women’s Open Rafting Team deserves such a warm welcome.

Recently back from the biennial International Rafting Federation’s World Rafting Championship (WRC) in Japan, former East Auckland local, Sarah Christie, is pleased to be sporting silver.

“I feel we competed well, fair and hard. I’m content with the result and think it reflects how the championships went,” she says. “Obviously, like every other team there, we wanted to win the coveted world title, but we’re happy with how our team performed and the overall result.”

NZ OPEN WOMEN: (from left) Anne Cairns, Sarah Christie, Kelly Wood, Corrina Gage, Nikki Kelly, Sarah Uhl & Nikki Whitehead.

This year’s competition was tough as usual, she adds, and even saw the hopes of reigning champs (the Czech Republic) sink as they failed to place.

Sarah’s team claimed second overall in the six-woman championship, securing gold in the Sprint event, silver in the Downriver section and bronze in Slalom along the way. Home river contenders, Japan, took out top honours.

“There is always a definite advantage having the worlds in your own country [but] they are a classy crew who consistently place in the top three at worlds.”

Consistency is in no short supply for the Kiwi team either; they’ve placed in the top three at every such event since 1999.

After claiming a win at home in 2013, the team also finished second overall in Indonesia, 2015. I ask the ex Maclean’s College pupil whether she’s a bit sick of second place.

“It’s not an issue of ‘getting sick’ of second!” she exclaims. “We are competing against top athletes from all over the world who want exactly the same thing; each river and competition is different. We go to worlds to compete to the best of our ability. But yes, we would love to step back up on the top of the podium soon.”

Whether Sarah and her teammates will ride Australia’s Tully River back to the top at the next worlds won’t be known until 2019, but readers can bank on the fact that these keen sportswomen will make every effort to do so.

To read more about Sarah and her love of competitive white-water rafting, see EastLife’s November 2015 issue – e-edition accessible via eastlife.co.nz.