The New Zealand canoe polo teams who have been selected to represent the country and the sport are set to head off to Europe early August. The teams are on an extended tour from August ensuring they acclimatise and have the opportunity to play together in elite completion before the world championships.
New Zealand is represented by four team the Paddle Blacks (senior men), Paddle Ferns (senior women), Junior Paddle Blacks (u21 men), Junior Paddle Ferns (u21 women). All teams are aiming for podium finishes these world championships. The previous world championships saw the Junior Paddle Ferns take bronze, and both the Paddle Ferns and Junior Paddle Blacks narrowly missing out of a medal by placing 4th.
Palmerston North based James Mitchell has again been selected to captain the Paddle Blacks who impressively climbed up to 7th position from 12th at the last world championships held in France in 2014. Mitchell stated ‘I have been lucky enough to have had a very long and successful international career and I see this current tour really as the culmination of that. At the last World championships we had a new core group of young elite athletes who performed exceedingly well helping our team place 7th. This group’s potential has really sparked the desire in me to continue my elite career; to help nurture and encourage their elite development. I believe we have the skills, desire and ability to achieve the Paddle Blacks best ever result on the world stage. Our team goal is to win a medal at the World Championships. This will also assure our entry into the 2017 World Games, which has never been achieved by the Paddle Blacks before.’
The Paddle Blacks team of 10 are an accumulation of 7 returning players from the 2014 team and 3 players whom have represented NZ on the international scene at Oceania in 2015 where NZ took the gold from the Aussie in 5 out of the 6 finals.
The team have completed their final training camp before heading off to Europe where they train in Ghent before competing at the first of 2 pre-worlds tournaments in August. Mitchell stated ‘We have been in serious training of 12+ hours a week since last September, not to mention plenty of tournaments and national training camps. Our last domestic training camp was at the beginning of July in Hamilton. Now it’s just the hard work of early morning paddle sessions in the cold and gym in the evenings.’ The world championships are being held in Syracuse, Italy 31 August – 2 September.