Gold on the water

She made worldwide headlines last year following her historic performance at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Newlywed Dame Lisa Carrington is one of New Zealand’s greatest athletes, and her accomplishments and incredible success in competitive kayaking have inspired generations of proud Kiwis.

The first New Zealand woman to become a triple gold medalist, there is no doubt Lisa is in a league of her own. As the country, and world, watched from afar, the 2021 Olympic Games would become a moment in history for her and her proud home country. She says, “Lots of moments have shaped my career so far, but what happened in Tokyo was something else. It’s amazing to look back and reflect on what was achieved.”

Image credit:
Under Armour NZ, Jo Caird.

And what was achieved was nothing short of world-class. Winning gold in three kayak sprint races, K-1 500m, K-2 500m and K-1 200m, brought her total Olympic medals to a staggering six, five of these being gold. This makes Lisa New Zealand’s most successful Olympian.

Returning home from Tokyo was unfortunately right into the midst of lockdowns and Covid-19 chaos, so Lisa’s homecoming was quieter than what would otherwise have been big celebrations. “I stepped out of MIQ straight into Auckland’s lockdown, so it was a quiet few months. Following Tokyo, I would have loved to have spent time travelling to parts of New Zealand, but instead, we got a lot of work done around the house which was satisfying.”

Currently, home for Lisa is Auckland, although she was able to enjoy some downtime with her nearest and dearest this summer in the special place where she grew up. “We had an awesome summer break in Ohope, it was so nice to finally get back there after Auckland’s long lockdown. I loved catching up with whānau and friends.” What does downtime look like for her? Often its time in nature, and spent with her favourite furry friend. “I love spending time with my dog, Colin. We live near some incredible beaches and parks which is lucky.”

Lisa first got into competitive kayaking back in 2007, after hoping it would help with her surf ski paddling, in her surf lifesaving competitions. It didn’t take long for her to switch her focus fully to kayaking.

Her career has been incredible as sports fans have witnessed, and a result of such success, especially in Tokyo last year saw her reach a different kind of milestone. Something not many athletes achieve at such a young age, Lisa rounded out 2021 by accepting the honour of being made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to canoe racing. This came in the same year she was named most influential Maori Sports Personality of the past 30 years, as well as the Halberg Sportswoman of the decade, so this great honour feels extremely fitting.

Earlier this year, Lisa won the supreme award at the 59th Halberg Awards ceremony and was also named sportswoman of the year earlier in the night.
It would deservedly be her second supreme award, as well as her fifth consecutive sportswoman of the year award.

There is no doubt Lisa is an inspiring role model for all Kiwis, especially young athletes hoping to get to a professional level in their sport. Her advice to them is as wise as you’d expect and comes with the kind of knowledge that can only be gained from years worth of learning and hard work.

“Always try to find the joy or fun in the training or the work, because to have success takes time. It helps to not rely on the result or outcome to define
the journey.”

Achieving what Lisa has would not be possible without incredible determination and commitment, as well as a fair share of challenges and hard days. She has her own set of practices to support her mindset amidst the madness of tiresome training. “I surround myself with great people. I have a brilliant team that supports me in all sorts of ways – both on and off the water. I’m also a fan of journalling, it’s something I do daily.”

Aside from her sporting career, Lisa has other things on the go, including currently studying for a Masters in Psychology. Plans for the rest of the year ahead include working towards finishing that, as well as training, travelling and competitions of course. “I’m looking forward to getting back into racing. Our Nationals are in April and World Champs are in Canada this August.”

I’m sure all of New Zealand will be looking forward to cheering on Lisa in her future endeavours, be it on or off the water.

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From the deputy editor: 31 March 2022

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