Pic by Balint Vekassy

New Zealand’s Caitlin Ryan stepped out from the imposing shadow of two-time Olympic gold medallist Lisa Carrington in the most emphatic way on Saturday, steaming to a K1 500 title at the opening ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup event of the season at Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal.

25-year-old Ryan blitzed the field to win by almost two seconds from Slovenia’s Spela Janic, a triple Olympian, and three-time Olympic gold medallist Krisztina Fazekas-Zur.

Incredibly it was Ryan’s first ever individual K1 race at a World Cup level, although perhaps that is not so surprising when her teammate is Carrington, who has dominated sprint racing in New Zealand since 2009.

Carrington has opted not to contest the individual events in Portugal, instead concentrating on team boats, and Ryan relished the opportunity to race the K1.

“I think you have a sense that people are really close around you so it was just a case of sticking to my race plan and being able to kick in the last 200,” Ryan said.

“Endurance is my thing, so being able to trust that endurance that I’ve been working on all year.

“I’ve recently just changed my training environment, I just wanted to put together all the components I’ve been working on, and i think it came together quite nicely.”

There’s a sense women’s sprint canoeing is on the verge of something special in New Zealand. Ryan was part of the country’s first ever women’s Olympic K4 crew last year, and in Portugal this weekend two New Zealand K2 boats dominated their heats on Friday.

“The standard has really stepped up in New Zealand, Lisa has set a really good precedent for us,” Ryan said.

“She’s set a really cool standard for us and given us the opportunity and for the sport to really develop and I think that’s a really exciting thing.

“We’re bringing out team boats now and really strong K1 paddlers and all those components come together really well and they create a really strong squad.

“These young girls are stepping up. It keeps everyone on their toes, and it also means that we’ve get a really big range of athletes to look forward to for Tokyo.”

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 1 finishes in Montemor-o-Velho on Sunday.

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