Howick teenager Hannah Thomas is aiming for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The 17-year-old, who attends Howick College, was recently selected for the New Zealand canoe and kayak teams and has made Paris her goal.
Thomas has just returned from the Australian Open where she finished (Kayak – Senior 66th; Junior 16th. Canoe – Senior 37th; Junior 5th) and the Oceania Championships finishing (Kayak – Senior 37th; Junior 4th; Oceania Junior champion. Canoe – Senior 25th, Junior 4th, Oceania Junior champion. Both events were held in Penrith NSW
Her step-Dad Shaun Pearce told the Times: “Both the events were incredibly well attended by European competition with more than 300 competitors which is the equivalent start line to a European World Cup event.”
Thomas started paddling in the UK in 2014. She was talent spotted in her school when British Canoeing visited on a scouting day.
“She was selected from more than a 1000 children in local schools close to the London 2012 venue,” said Pearce.
In 2017 Hannah competed for Great Britain at the Junior Worlds & European Championships.
“We then moved to New Zealand in January 2018. A rule change in the International Canoe Federation meant that Hannah was able to start competing for NZ immediately,” he said.
“She competed in 1 Senior World Cup and the Junior Worlds in the Canoe class.”
Getting to this level takes extreme dedication. So what drives her?
“Hannah enjoys the challenge that the white water offers and the team camaraderie,” said Pearce.
“Training consists of around 11 training sessions per week (both on and off the water).
“This year will see her overseas for around 12 weeks so balancing being away and school is a delicate balance. Howick College is extremely supportive towards Hannah representing New Zealand.”
Meanwhile, behind the scenes the family is in the process of obtaining permanent residency in New Zealand so it can get citizenship in time to meet the IOC regulations for Paris Olympics 2024.
There are a couple of other significant issues too.
Hannah’s canoe was broken on the plane last month. That has hampered training and meant ordering another from Europe.
“On our way home from Australia we arrived back into Auckland to find that Hannah’s canoe had been written-off whilst in the cargo hold,” Pearce said.
“We now have to order a new one (they are made in Slovakia) so there will be no chance to have it manufactured and shipped to New Zealand before we leave in early June.
“We now have to figure out a solution so that she is able to train in her canoe for the season ahead.”
A local boat builder is currently patching the damaged one up in order for her to be able to continue to train. “Fixing the boat will add significant weight but will have to do for training purposes in the meantime,” he said.
Quite apart from the disappointment, it has also added to the massive costs involved.
“We are also looking out for potential sponsors/partners to help Hannah compete in as many of the events as possible,” said Pearce.
Her forthcoming competitions include the Junior World Championships in Poland in July; World Cups (June, August) in the UK, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Czech Republic; World Championships in Spain and Tokyo 2020 test event.
“We are really hoping to find support, no matter how large or small, as we are anticipating the season costing a significant amount.
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