Having missed the Tokyo Olympics because she withdrew from the NZ high-performance programme, it’s a shame paddler Aimee Fisher won’t be able to defend her world K1 500m sprint title because each country is confined to one entrant.
That will be incredible five-times Olympic champion Lisa Carrington who pipped Fisher 2-1 in the recent best of three trials.
Each country is allowed up to two competitors an event at the Olympics but Fisher sacrificed her chance going to Tokyo after withdrawing from the high-performance squad run by Gordon Walker because of allegations of bullying, intimidation and psychological abuse.
Certainly, both Halberg Supreme Sportsperson and Sportswoman Carrington has prospered enormously from Halberg Sports Coach of the Year Walker and it is not the first time they have scored the double.
However, the fact that Fisher could beat two Olympic medallists to become world champion in September 2021 in Denmark showed that she had prospered under her own coaching setup. And again, the recent trials ignited with her defeat of Carrington for the New Zealand title.
Clearly having admitted to pre-race nerves and huge respect for one another, Fisher and Carrington have no personal animosity. Hence if Fisher who, at 27, is five years younger than Carrington, can produce world-class performances independent of the national programme, then she should be chosen for future Olympic Games.
The prospect of them teaming up in bigger kayaks is also tantalising.
Meanwhile the All Blacks’ domination of the Bledisloe Cup is under threat after the Waratahs’ shock 24-21 upset of the Crusaders and the Brumbies 42-25 caning of the Hurricanes.
Add the Blues hard-fought 22-18 win against the robust Western Force. and the Chiefs sneaking home 27-25 win against the Reds and the Aussie sides earned genuine respect.
None was more telling than the Waratahs excellent performance against an uncharacteristic fumbling Crusaders who were shell-shocked by two quick tries by brilliant wings Dylan Pietsch and Mark Nawaqanitawase whose surname is harder to pronounce than he is to tackle.
Rarely is Sevu Reece outplayed but the fast and elusive Pietsch had the distinction of edging him upon receiving a better service.
While Crusaders coach Scott Robertson would have lamented resting Houdini first-five Richie Mo’unga and the few chances to attack offered star fullback Will Jordan, the Waratahs dominated lineouts and fully deserved a win that brought tears to their first-five Tane Edmed.
Indeed, it was an emotional moment for a team that has won six games this year after losing the lot last season.
Although the Brumbies 42-25 win looked convincing against the Hurricanes, the try difference was only one with the victors registering five.
While victory just eluded them 27-24 against the Highlanders before their own 15,000 happy fans, the Fijian Drua have at last found a forward pack capable of doing justice to their athletic backs.
Heading the table by just one point from the impressive Brumbies, the Blues should comfortably win at home against the Rebels on Friday when the Reds should account for the Highlanders in Brisbane.
Suffering a swag of penalties against them, Moana Pasifika will need a big improvement to topple the high-riding Waratahs at Mt Smart on Saturday afternoon before the Chiefs try to dent the Brumbies’ armour at Hamilton.
Expect the Crusaders to improve dramatically against the Force in Perth before Sunday’s clash with the Hurricanes hosting the exciting Fijian Drua.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer