Pemby paddlers impress in Australia 

Athletes rise to the challenge at international race

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Phare conditions Pemberton's Quinn Phare is shown in action at the IVF Va'a World Sprint Championships in May.
  • Photo submitted
  • Phare conditions Pemberton's Quinn Phare is shown in action at the IVF Va'a World Sprint Championships in May.

All three Pemberton paddlers made at least one semifinal during the IVF Va'a World Sprint Championships on Australia's Sunshine Coast last month.

One even made a final.

Competing in the masters and senior masters divisions, Corinne Graves was the veteran presence among the local contingent, having represented Canada at the 2012 event in Calgary. Hana Ronayne and Quinn Phare made up the next generation, competing in under-19 and under-16 divisions.

"We had way too much fun," Graves said. "We ended up having 80 competitors, so that was pretty good for little, old Canada."

Phare's best result came on an individual level as he made the semis in the junior 16 men V1 500-metre race.

"It's been one of the biggest learning points for me and it's given me so much confidence in myself, being able to get out there and race," he said.

His highlight, however, was working together with five other Canucks in the 1,500-metre event, which featured a new twist for him.

"It was a race where you had to turn around a buoy and I had never really done that before, so it was a new, fun experience for me," he said. "It went pretty well."

Ronayne, meanwhile, made the final in the junior 16 women V1 500-metre race, placing sixth overall, just over 10 seconds back of winner Tia Akurangi from New Zealand. She also advanced in the same distance in the junior 19 division, taking eighth and placing 22 seconds behind Kiwi Akayshia Williams.

Graves was impressed with both of the youngsters.

"They represented us so well not just on the water, but off the water," she said. "It could not have been better."

Graves competed on a team level, and won at least a round with all of her entries. There was a Cinderella run for one of her teams, though.

"We advanced in all of our races to the next stage," she said. "We'd pretty much get knocked out from there, but that's OK.

"My senior masters team, we actually ended up advancing in our V6 500-metre event and made it as far as the semifinals so that was pretty cool for us."

One might credit a team becoming stronger because of familiarity for advancing, but that wasn't the case for Graves and friends, as two members left the team with exhaustion and two others slotted right in.

"They ended up changing our team because two of the women were being overwhelmed because they were doing V1 as well and it was too much racing (for them)," she said. "We ended up replacing (them with) two people we had never met at the last minute. We didn't even know their names, or at least one of them. We just ended up doing better and better.

"It was pretty cool because we hadn't even practiced together and to get that far was surprising. Very surprising."

With the sport being far more popular in the Southern Hemisphere, the 2016 event was much bigger than the 2012 one. New Zealand alone had a 550-member squad, she said, and performed a haka dance on the competition's opening day."One of the highlights was watching all of the South Pacific teams like New Zealand and Tahiti and Australia and Cook Islands and Fiji — they've all grown up paddling," she said. "We get hockey sticks when we grow up. They get paddles when they grow up, so it's just amazing to watch their teams paddle. They're just so seamless and you're in awe the whole time when you're watching them. It's amazing."



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