The second factor is more ominous, with fellow Kiwi Sam Sutton gunning for an unprecedented fourth consecutive win in the season-ending event over 280 metres of grade five rapids down the infamous Wellerbrucke section of the Otztaler Ache River.
“The course is hard here and the boys are all here firing it up and getting ready for the race,” Dawson said. “I feel like I’ve left it pretty late to turn up, especially since I haven’t raced a lot in my creek boat this season, but I’m fired up and feeling good on the water.”
Dawson is one of the world’s best extreme paddlers but this title has escaped his grasp. He finished second in 2009 and 2011 and third last year, a month after representing New Zealand at the London Olympics.
His recent African trip, which took him through Ugandan national parks and down a rarely-paddled stretch of the Nile, may not help in his search for the elusive prize but it did provide some unique experiences.
“Africa was pretty full on – we paddled 85kms through some of the biggest rapids I have ever seen. We had a lot of run in with crocs and hippos – I ended up swimming through a pool with a croc while scouting a river.
The lineup at the world champs will be the strongest seen yet, with Sutton joined by his brother Jamie and 150 of the world’s best whitewater kayakers, including newly crowned canoe slalom world champion Vavrinec Hradilek of the Czech Republic.
“There’s probably three dudes in New Zealand that could beat me and I’ll probably go home to Okere Falls after this and get smashed by any of them,” Sutton said. “I don’t know what’s up with New Zealand but it’s just an extremely competitive environment and if you can win a race back home, you can probably win any international race.”
- And not a drop of rain (kickingitlikeakiwi.wordpress.com)
- Fundraising underway for next Team NZ campaign (stuff.co.nz)