When I was 7 years old, Dad and I were watching the Athens Olympics when we came across a women’s K1 500m race. I watched the race and thought to myself “I can do that”, even though I didn’t know what the sport was called and had no idea how to get into it. I knew from that point on that I wanted to go to the Olympics and do that sport.

At the age of 15, having had success with surf lifesaving ski racing, Dad took me down to the North Shore Canoe Club to have a go in a kayak. I paddled about 100 metres down the lake and tipped out. The lake was freezing so it was a very quick swim to the nearest jetty! I got out, drained the Kayak and had another go. After a few more attempts, I was away. I loved the speed that a kayak could reach. I had discovered my passion and I was hooked!

I began training every day, and went to my first competition 3 months later: Nationals. To my surprise, I placed 3rd in the under 16 K1 200m. This is when I realised that after only 3 months of training, I had a real talent for the sport.

Training continued and I began to really push myself, cycling to Lake Pupuke, training on the lake, and cycling home again. I continued this until disaster struck. Two days before I was about to go to Rotorua for a competition, I was hit by a car while cycling to the lake. I was rushed to hospital with a concussion, broken wrist, cracked spine and severe road rash. After three days in the hospital I returned home, wondering if I could ever return to paddling. Six weeks later I returned to gentle training. Three weeks after that, I competed at Nationals and brought home gold in the under 16 male K1 200m.

Four years later, numerous early mornings and thousands of kilometres paddled have resulted in three Oceania titles, and two U23 World Championships. I am still focused on my Olympic dream and now I can see that it actually could become a reality.

My morning routine is to wake at 5.40am. I look at the pictures of our K4 team, Japan airlines and the Olympic symbol that are stuck to the ceiling above my bed. I train at either Lake Pupuke or Greenhithe from 6.15 until 8.30, and then my work day begins. I usually finish work at 4.00pm. Our afternoon training session is either paddling, or a weight session in the gym, 4.30 until 6pm. Then, I’m home for dinner and in bed by 8.30, ready to do it all again the next day.

I am so grateful to have people that believe in me. I sincerely thank the Bobby Stafford Bush Foundation for its financial support. A new boat will enable me to go to the next level; I will be able to reach a higher top speed. I have been invited to trial for the 2017 U23 World Championships which will be held in Pitesti, Romania. If I am selected, the experience will help secure my place in the team that is working towards Tokyo, 2020.

Karl McMurtrie

Joseph Millar