It’s not just because she is the defending world champion that New Zealand’s Teneale Hatton wants to do well at this weekend’s 2017 ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong.

She also feels she has a point to prove, after missing New Zealand selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics in controversial circumstances.

“It is important for me,” Hatton said.

“I still want to prove that I am a good paddling athlete, and obviously I haven’t been given some opportunities which has been disappointing, but then again, there’s this opportunity right here.

“I just have to funnel all my motivation and all my energies into that. I guess I just have to use it on the water.”

Adding to the complications for Hatton is she now has a full-time career as a paramedic. It’s meant making the most of her closest 24-hour gym, often pumping the weights at 3am after a busy night saving lives.

Initially she had her doubts about this weekend, but since arriving in Hong Kong her confidence has grown.

“I’ve had a different build-up to what I have had previously, so I’m sort of umming and aahing about it just because I feel a lot different,” she said.

“I’ve also being doing adventure racing, so that’s sort of changed my focus a little bit. My build up started a little later than it normally would, but it sort of worked out well.

“It’s been a nice six months of preparing for surf ski. It’s been different, but it’s been fun and exciting as well, having things going on as a nice distraction.

“But I’m pretty excited. I went out there today and had a kicking downwind, so now it really feels like a downwind champs coming up.”

With so much going on in Hatton’s life since 2015 she hasn’t had much time to think about what’s at stake this weekend.

But she acknowledges the pressure of being defending World Champion is there, and that there are a lot of very strong athletes looking to wrest the crown from the New Zealander.

“I feel it can sometimes mess with your head a little bit, having so much pressure on you,” she said.

“But it’s also kind of good, because there’s that pressure on you to do well and you kind of feel like you have to meet that expectation. It’s a great motivation when it comes to training, and it’s certainly a great motivation when it comes to standing on that start line!

“People are expecting you to get off that line first, so you think ‘I better do it’. It’s just about trying to use it in a positive way and not let it distract me too much.”

And like a handful of her competitors, the Kiwi will look out her bedroom window on Saturday morning and hope to see the trees bending in the breeze.

The forecast keeps changing, but there’s a good chance she will get her wish.

“I raced this course last year, and I had a great time,” she said.

“Obviously off the line there’s a bit of headwind, a bit of chop, it’s very very messy, a bit up and down throughout the whole course, especially that start.

“I love that stuff. The more challenging it is, the better it is. I’m going to channel my energies into using every little lump and bump and use it as I can.”

And post this weekend, where will Teneale Hatton focus her sporting energies? The 27-year-old has not been seen on the canoe sprint circuit in 2017, and New Zealand has unearthed several strong young paddlers in this year’s World Cups.

But Hatton is refusing to rule out a crack at making the Tokyo Olympics.

“We’ll see about that,” she said.

“I’d love to, but obviously a lot depends on the politics in the sport, unfortunately, but everyone deals with it.

“It’s just whether I feel like being in that environment again. I still love the sport, so you never know. Maybe there’s a surprise up my sleeve.”

But that’s the future. Her first goal is to become ocean racing’s first two-time World Champion, a task she’ll confront on Saturday.

Canoe Ocean Racing