Lisa Carrington continued to rewrite canoe sprint history at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, and the New Zealander is not finished yet.

The 32-year-old added the women’s K1 500 to the K1 200 and the K2 500 gold medals she won on Tuesday, giving her a grand total of six Olympic medals and making her the most successful New Zealand Olympic athlete of all time.

Her three gold medals in Tokyo puts her alongside fellow New Zealander Ian Ferguson, Hungarian Danuta Kozak and Soviet paddler Vladimir Parfenovich as the only canoe sprint athletes to ever climb to the top of the podium three times during a single Games.

And with the K4 500 still to come, Carrington is less then two minutes away from becoming the first sprint athlete to win four medals at one Olympics.

The much anticipated showdown between Carrington and two-time Olympic champion Kozak in the K1 500 was over by the halfway stage of the final, with the New Zealander charging out to a big lead and the with Hungarian stuck in a chasing pack.

It was another Hungarian, Tamara Csipes, who tried valiantly to drag Carrington back to the field, but as remarked after the race, “Lisa is in very good form”. Kozak, a teammate of Csipes in the gold-medal winning women’s K4 500 in Rio, finished in fourth.

Denmark’s Emma Jorgensen, who joked after winning silver behind Carrington in the 200 that she hoped the New Zealander would retire soon, picked up the bronze to go with the 500 silver she won in Rio.

If Carrington is started to feel the pressure of a long week in the sweltering Tokyo heat, she’s not showing it. And she won’t even acknowledge she is starting to feel tired, instead expressing her enthusiasm for her final event starting Friday.

“The week has been pretty amazing so far, and I’m super excited to get out there and race with my teammates,” Carrington said.

“It’s pretty amazing to be at this point and to have done what I’ve done, I’m just relishing this moment and then I close it up and move onto the next thing.”

Of the four events on Carrington’s calendar this week, the 500 loomed as one of the more difficult. Coming after the K1 200 and K2 500, and with two-time Olympic champion Danuta Kozak from Hungary in the field, it was always likely to be tough, even for the reigning world champion.

But Carrington has prepared for this week to the most minute detail.

It’s an incredibly tough event, the 500,” she said.

It just requires so much physicality and strategy, so it’s a tough race. I knew that if I could just put my best foot forward, I’d have a good chance today.”

And of the history?

It’s unreal. It’s not something you ever dream of doing, especially coming from New Zealand. It’s just been amazing to be able to pave the way,” she said.

Growing up, to be an Olympian was the epitome of who you wanted to be, it represented so many good values. I think for me it was something I never thought I would be able to do, I’ve just taken it as I’ve gone through my career.

It’s amazing, I’m just proud of where I’ve come from.”

Carrington also took time out to praise Kozak, for so long a fierce rival in both single and team boats, and who set the standard with three gold medals in Rio.

I think she is an incredible athlete, she’s been so dominant for such a long period of time,” Carrington said.

I have the utmost respect for her and what she has been able to achieve over the past three Olympics now.

Hungary is such a dominant force on the water, so it’s really cool to be able to be alongside them.”

That rivalry will continue, perhaps for the last time, in the women’s K4 500 starting on Friday.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

New Zealand Lisa Carrington podium


Canoe Sprint