Tokyo Olympics 2020: Women’s K4 500m crew miss more Games glory after gruelling week

So Lisa Carrington is human after all.

The Ohope paddler has achieved crazy heights this week, but couldn’t help the New Zealand K4 500m crew to a podium finish on Saturday.

In an epic final, the Kiwis had to settle for fourth, behind perennial powerhouses Hungary, Belarus, and Poland.

It was another grand effort from the New Zealanders, in the most competitive event in women’s kayaking, but it looked, for the first time, like the exertions of the past six days had taken their toll, with Carrington (12 races) and Caitlin Regal (nine races) having staggering workloads in the Japanese capital.

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In driving rain, the Kiwis started well, though not as punchy as their previous three races.

They were third by a whisker at the halfway point – but couldn’t find an extra gear – as Poland overhauled them, finishing almost half a boat length ahead.

Their time was 1:37.168, almost a second slower than their semifinal.

The result will be hard to take, as this crew had high hopes of winning New Zealand’s first K4 medal since Los Angeles. But once the disappointment fades, it will be time for celebration. This regatta has been the most successful since Ian Ferguson and his comrades in 1984 and will provide a massive boost for the sport.

And as the kayaking game rewards longevity, the crew of Carrington (32), Hoskin (21), Regal (29) and Hatton (31) could all feature in Paris in 2024.

Just like in rowing, the big boat is the ultimate test.

The K4 500 is a brutal event, where the major kayaking nations can lump their top talent together in one boat. It was a fearsome lineup on Saturday.

Hungary, with legendary five- time Olympic gold medallist Danuta Kozak in the bow, hadn’t been beaten at this level since a silver in Beijing.

They were also reigning world champions from 2019, their seventh crown since 2010.

There was 2019 World Championship silver medallists Belarus, along with Poland, who claimed bronze at that event. And Germany brought an amazing Olympic record; only Hungary and Germany had won this event since 1988.

In comparison, New Zealand were a scratch combination. Carrington and Regal were the survivors from the 2019 World Championships crew that finished fourth while only Regal remained from the boat that earnt fifth in Rio.

The quartet had their first international race on Friday.

New Zealand drew lane six, sandwiched between Hungary and Germany, with Belarus and Poland nearby. Steady drizzle at the Sea Forest Waterway had turned into pouring rain just before the start, as the Kiwis dispensed with their sunglasses.

The New Zealand boat began well, though without the skyrocket start of some previous races. It was tight, with only half a second separating the first four boats at the 250m mark, with Germany tucked in behind.

At that point, the Kiwi crew were only .20 seconds behind Hungary and 0.30 seconds off Belarus, but that was as close as they got.

As the European crews maintained – and even increased their tempo – the black boat couldn’t stay with them. Hungary stopped the clock in a sensational 1:35.463, with Belarus recording 1:36.073 and Poland 1:36.445.

New Zealand’s semifinal time would have been good enough for bronze, but conditions and workloads took their toll.

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