With a world ranking of number 15, no-one expected Max Brown and his K2 partner Kurtis Imrie to be in the final hunt for medals in Japan.
However, New Zealand’s K2 sprint canoe champions (and CurraNZ ambassadors) pulled off a huge feat to battle through the rounds and announce their arrival on the big stage.
Their journey to the medal-deciding final was aided on day one with an electric Team New Zealand experience that gave them the shot in the arm they needed.
Their arrival at the village was celebrated with a pounamu (green stone) gift and welcome haka. Shortly afterwards, sculler Emma Twigg and the men’s rowing eight team also arrived back at the village and were given a spine-tingling celebratory welcome following gold medal-winning performances. This proved to be unexpectedly moving and provided a timely dose of inspiration to calm their nerves.
Max said: “It was very inspirational and gave me a lot of strength emotionally, especially seeing the route the men’s team had to take to get to the final.”
The K2 showdown between the ‘best of the best’
Recent rule changes meant countries could enter two elite teams instead of one for canoe sprint, making it hugely competitive. With this mind, Max and Kurtis’s first goal wasn’t to get into the ‘A final’ (top eight) but survive each round.
Max and Kurtis were in the ‘company of champions’ at every stage, which wasn’t lost on Max, who suffers from nerves - and was particularly affected in his first race of the series.
He says: “It’s not unusual for nerves to get the better of me. As an athlete you realise this is part of the emotions you feel - and you need those emotions. If you’re 100% relaxed, you may not do your best. You need some of that ‘fight or flight’ response going on.”
The game plan that took them through to the ‘A’ final
With help from their coach and sports psychologist, the duo put a huge amount of preparation into the things they could control - their boat, how they paddled, their communication and race plan.
They went there with their coach’s attitude that ‘everyone is beatable’,
When they made the A final, Max resisted dwelling on his country’s expectations, that ‘everyone is going to expect me to win a medal now’. Instead, he went back to what would help him perform his best – focusing on the ‘controllables’.
In the medal-decider, Max knew the outcome would come down to the smallest of margins – even a glance left or right could cost them dearly, as it had previously costed Max, by a hundredth of a second.
In the next lane, the Germans were pulling hard at half-way (eventually coming second), but instead of trying to match them, the Kiwis stuck to their game plan, and poured it all on in the final 200m.
At the finish, Max thought they had placed seventh but looking up, he saw they had come in fifth. Extremely proud of their performance, Max and Kurtis had outperformed their ranking at every stage and were ecstatic with the final outcome.
Max’s reflections on using CurraNZ
Max first came across CurraNZ when his nutritionist told him to take a blackcurrant supplement around his training and competition.
He liked numerous things about CurraNZ - the capsule format made it easier to consume (compared to loose powder), the research behind the product was solid and the fact we are a New Zealand company.
Immediately, Max is having down-time away from canoeing, and hitting the South Island ski slopes with family and friends, having wanted to do this last year but plans falling through.
On the future race front, they came close to a medal this time round so if training goes well, he will be looking to qualify in the boat again for the next Games.
Many congrats to Max and Kurtis, who used CurraNZ all the way through their preparation and competition and did their country and sponsors proud.