HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 587: 10 November 2011

National men’s paddling squad counting down
As Vaka Eiva draws near, visit Avarua Wharf on any afternoon and you will see the different crews hitting the ocean for training. This year the Cook Islands will have a national representative squad for both men and women compete in the annual event for the first time. The idea to have national level squad competing in Vaka Eiva is not a new one - last year there was an attempt to form a national squad, but it didn’t eventuate in the end. The coach for the Cook Islands men’s squad, Reuben Dearlove, said that the main reason for entering the national level squads was to try to ensure there were competitive Cook Island teams racing in the events. “It’s the level of the paddlers coming in [for Vaka Eiva]. Teams like Outrigger Australia – they’re picking from Australia, a country of 20 million people.”
Training for the men’s squad has been gruelling and they face their hardest week of training this week, before the intensity of the training tapers off slightly in the week leading up to the event. Dearlove said the men have been doing “lots of paddling” in preparation for their races, as well as additional training off the water. “[They’ve been] paddling every day. Running, gym work – they’ve also been doing stuff on the mental side.” The mental aspects of the training have included learning to work more as a team, blocking out pain and “backing other people, instead of being concerned with how much you’re hurting.” The squad has also been studying footage of top Tahitian paddlers, however Dearlove emphasised that this wasn’t something they wanted to focus too much on. “I think if you start working too much with guys this short time out, it can be detrimental because they become paranoid and try to fix stuff that there was nothing wrong with. There’s technique and then there’s style. Everyone has their own style and you can’t crush that - that is what that person is. But there is a technique that works and we’ve just been trying to emphasise that part of it, that part of the stroke.”
According to Dearlove, the biggest strength of the national men’s squad is the enthusiasm of every individual. “Everyone seems to be enjoying the training - even though it’s hard! I never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do - I’m in the canoe with them as well. I think everyone will just do their best - if everyone gets off the water absolutely spent, then there’s nothing else I can ask of them.”
Dearlove has high hopes for the squad despite top Australian team Outrigger Australia, who placed sixth in the elite paddling event ‘Molokai’ in 2010, competing up against them. “I think we can podium.” His biggest hopes for the team were, “For everything to go well – changes to go well, combinations to work out. For everyone to feel good.”
Podium finishes in Vaka Eiva against strong teams from New Zealand, Hawaii and Australia is becoming more challenging for local paddlers. For this reason Dearlove felt that if all went well this year then national level squads competing in Vaka Eiva would probably become the norm for the years ahead. But he added that a big focus of the event was still about having fun. “I think if the really top Tahitian teams come it’ll change the event a lot. At the moment it has become an event that is fun – right now a lot of families come, include it as their yearly holiday and then paddle as well! It’s not like Molokai or Hawaiki Nui or any of the massive competitive races. It’s good for the country – it brings in so much money, and so many people. Businesses do well out of it.” Vaka Eiva 2011 begins on Friday 18 November. -Ngariki Ngatae

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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