Sport

Mereana paddling for gold in Rio

Mereana Patara - member of the Australian junior womens squad in outrigging.
Mereana Patara - member of the Australian junior womens squad in outrigging. Alistair Brightman

OUTRIGGER canoe paddler Te Otimi Patara won two gold medals at the 2012 World Sprint Titles in Calgary.

He also paddled for Australia in 2010 at New Caledonia.

Hervey Bay's Mereana Patara is determined to match her older brother's feats.

The 15 year old is already showing signs that her dream could become a reality especially now that she's been chosen to represent Australia at this year's World Sprint Titles in Rio de Janeiro.

The St James Lutheran College student was selected as a steerer in the under-16 girls' team that will compete in the V6 500m and 1000m races, as well as the V12 event.

"The nerves are going to kick in soon, but at the moment I'm really excited," Mereana told the Chronicle about her upcoming trip.

"Te has given us details of what the competition is like over there and what the other countries can do and what their strengths and weaknesses are."

Mereana discovered outrigger canoeing five years ago - it's an intense and exhilarating sport that is as much about your mental preparation as your physical ability.

Since watching her brother's triumph in 2012 via a live video stream from a school classroom, the Fraser Coast Outriggers member has gone about pursuing her goals with a quiet intensity.

Mereana is one of Fraser Coast's most exciting prospects, having won multiple medals at the national marathon titles and Aussie Aito regatta.

But she has yet to test her skills against the world's best young paddlers.

"I'm very competitive and I get aggressive on the water because I don't like anyone getting in my way," she said.

"We're really good at our starts, which we discovered in training at the weekend, and I reckon we're a good chance of making the final."

With the world sprint titles a month away, the Australian junior women's squad, which comprises paddlers from the Fraser Coast, Sunshine Coast, Gladstone and Rockhampton, has ramped up its training another notch.

Under the watchful eye of coach Grant Bliss, the girls trained well at Burrum Heads - the hometown of under-19 women's squad member Grace Riley - at the weekend before heading to Hervey Bay for another session yesterday.

As a steerer, Mereana must use power and precision to manoeuvre the canoe around the turning buoys.

Bliss said he was happy to have such a driven and motivated athlete at the rear of the boat.

"She is the elite steerer for her age in the country and we basically needed her in there," he said.

"She's definitely made huge gains since she came on board.

"She's trained very hard and I know fitness-wise she's doing personal bests with her weights and things like that."




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