When you’ve won everything there is to win and confirmed yourself as one of the greatest athletes of the modern era, how do you keep the fire in the belly?

Lisa Carrington is at that point in the road. Five Olympic gold medals, including three in Tokyo, unbeaten over 200 metres since before 2012, the New Zealander could easily retire today and lay claim to being the GOAT.

But Carrington was back on the water in Szeged on Thursday, beginning her campaign for a fourth Olympics, where she’ll be chasing three more gold medals. Ask her if she still has the passion, and the response comes quickly.

“I just want to see how much more I can push myself,” she said.

“I’m just trying to find little opportunities everywhere to get better. I’m trying to squeeze out more and more all the time.

“It’s mostly just performance. These regattas, and racing, always bring out the best in me, and others, it’s seriously just seeing how fast I can go.”

Is it getting easier to prepare for an Olympics campaign?

“No I don’t think so, I guess the demand on yourself is just greater,” Carrington said.

“If I think it’s going to be easier, I’m probably going to get a bit complacent, so it’s about trying to get better all the time.”

Carrington comes to Europe off the back of another tough New Zealand summer, where she once again had to fight off a fierce challenge from 2021 ICF World Champion, Aimee Fisher, for team selection.

Fisher set a faster heat time in the K1 500 on Thursday, but Carrington was unperturbed. She’s become very good at managing her program.

“It was a tough race, especially into that headwind and after the K4 this morning, so it was good to get out there and blow out the cobwebs,” the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympian said.

In 2020 Carrington set herself the ambitious goal of not just competing in four events, but also winning all four. She ended up taking top spot in three – the K1 200 and 500, and the K2 500. She missed out on a medal in the K4 500.

In Paris the K1 200 has been removed from the program, so in theory Carrington’s task to pick up medals in all her events should be easier. But there’s a catch.

“I think the (Paris) schedule is pretty tough this time round, so I don’t know if it’s going to be any easier,” she said.

“The schedule last time made it more achievable, as hard as it was. This time it’s tougher, so it’s hard to know.”

Pic by Bence Vekassy

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