Teneale's Ticket to Tokyo

The past 18 months have been a whirlwind for all of us, but especially for Takapuna Boating Club paddler Teneale Hatton, who restarted her sprint paddling career with such success that she earned selection into the New Zealand Sprint Kayaking Team bound for the delayed Tokyo Olympics which starts in July.

“I’m pretty pumped” said Teneale, who will be competing in the K2 500 and K4 500 events alongside her teammates Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Regal and Alicia Hoskin. “The Olympics is going to be a crazy event with the impacts of covid, but I’m so excited to race internationally again and to race other people.”

It has been an unorthodox journey for Teneale, who hasn’t raced in an international sprint event since 2014. However, she is no stranger to the Olympics having competed at the London 2012 games at just 22years old.

“I was just a kid!” recalled Teneale. “I’d only done one world champs in K1 at that stage, so was pretty fresh on the scene. I didn’t achieve what I wanted but that event was a real motivator for me to improve, and to seek out different coaching strategies and training environments”

It clearly worked, with Teneale going on to win U23 Marathon Worlds in 2013 as well as the 2014 World Championships in the K1-1000m. She still holds the world record time in this discipline.

However, she was disappointed to miss selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics and put her sprint paddles down. She instead focused her attention on ocean racing, relishing the environment of surfski paddling.

Teneale Hatton (3rd from left) has been selected for the NZ Kayak team for the Tokyo Olympics, alongside her teammates Caitin Regal, Alicia Hoskin and Lisa Carrington.

“I really love the vibe, freedom and fun of surfski.” She won the 2015 ICF Ocean Racing World Championships, as well as coming third in 2017 and 2019. All whilst balancing a career as a full-time paramedic.

But sprint paddling remained in the back of Teneale’s mind, with a feeling she still had unfinished business. But it was only during the Covid lockdown last year, after the Olympics were delayed, that she explored the possibility of a return to sprint racing, approaching the CRNZ High Performance Director Gordon Walker. “I had a bit of interaction with Gordy socially, through mountain biking, and I had been training hard so decided it was an appropriate time to ask about getting back into it.”

“Shoutout to Max Riley (fellow TBC paddler) for training with me through that period and encouraging me to give it another go.”

But her plans were derailed almost immediately when she seriously cut her hand during a freak baking accident in the final week of lockdown. “I was using a glass as a cookie cutter, when it broke and sliced through my hand.” Surgery was required to repair the cut tendon in her finger, and the surgeon suggested it was unlikely she could paddle as required as she was instructed to wear a brace on her hand for 6months.

Teneale is a multiple world champion in sprint, surfski and marathon paddling, as well as the K1 1000m world record holder.

However, she defied the doctors and was back paddling as soon as she could, training with the NZ Womens squad at Lake Pupuke. “My original plan was that this first year was just a trial to see if I could get back to a competitive level, with the aim of going to the Paris 2024 games. But I improved a lot faster than expected and soon realized I wasn’t far off the level I needed to be to go to Tokyo.”

It is certainly going to be a different type of Olympics, with no spectators. This will differ to the previous sprint events she has competed in, where she remembers at one event getting a fright when the noise of the cheering crowd engulfed her at the 200m to go mark.

“Kayaking is a massive sport overseas, it’s a bit different to here in NZ” laughs Teneale.

Teneale isn’t worried about the lack of international racing over the past year. “We have confidence from the work that we have done and the simulated racing. It’s an absolute credit to the depth of talent we have in womens paddling here and the coaching and support teams we have.”

Teneale and the kayak team depart NZ this week for a training camp in Australia before heading directly to Tokyo.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics start on 23rd July and run through to 8th August. Takapuna Boating Club will be screening the games live, and we hope Teneale will hear us cheering for her all the way!