Old Collegian News: Coach of the Year Encore at Halbergs
Friday, February 9
This week we offer our congratulations to Old Collegian Gordon Walker (Marsden, 1986-90) on winning Coach of the Year at the Halberg Awards for the second year running. Gordon is the coach of Olympian Lisa Carrington and is a multisport athlete himself.
Last year we profiled Gordon in the Courier following his win at the 2017 Halbergs:
A remarkable feat
Kayaking was the winner on the night at this year’s Halberg Awards
It was a massive night for kayaking when Lisa Carrington and her coach Gordon WALKER (Marsden, 86-90) took out the top honours at the 54th Halberg Awards in February.
While Lisa picked up High Performance Sport NZ, Sportswoman of the Year and Supreme Halberg Sportsperson of the Year, it was the coach behind her stellar success at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, who added to the exhilaration of the night by collecting the Buddle Findlay, Coach of the Year award.
Winning gold in the K1 200m and bronze in the K1 500m at Rio, Lisa became the first New Zealand woman to win two medals in a single Olympic Games. While she has no plans to stop anytime soon, Gordon believes the 27-year-old has already established herself as one of the sport’s all-time greats. “No other individual kayaker has won two world championship medals every single year for four years. It’s never been done before, male or female,” he says.
But while Gordon is quick to acknowledge the extraordinary prowess of the famous kayaker and other big names he has worked with, his own rise as a multisport performer is not to be glossed over. Thrice winner of the Coast to Coast he understands endurance training and although he says he’s a Jack of all trades and master of none, his lack of specialist expertise has not held him back.
Born in Zimbabwe, Gordon moved to New Zealand with the rest of his family at age six. He was educated in Hamilton before moving to Auckland and attending King’s. Then he studied Sports Science at University where he particularly enjoyed Physiology. Now married with three young children he lives in Auckland. In early 2010, he was offered the role of Intern Coach with Canoe Racing New Zealand (CRNZ) and he has been part of the High Performance programme ever since.
At College, Gordon professes to have “enjoyed sport more than the classroom” and “athletics day and cross-country were the highlights of my year.” He tried most sports and his father used to take the family kayaking. On leaving school he took up cycling independently, but in those days running was his passion.
In his late 20s he started to get into multisport races for fun and the Coast to Coast challenge became his Olympics. The first time he came 7th, less than 40 minutes behind Steve Gurney, which made him realise he was in with a chance. He says of his fellow competitors, “they were amazing people to be around… you learn never to give up.”
It was training with Ben Fouhy that particularly inspired him, and started his association with kayaking and understanding how they trained. He says, “The human body hasn’t changed, our understanding of how it works has changed.” He also believes that Arthur Lydiard’s training style in the 50s and 60s is still relevant today.
His connection with Lisa began the end of 2010, “a challenging space at a time when new coaches were arriving and others leaving” and he soon realised that she had huge capabilities in the sprinting area. He brought his endurance training across a variety of sports to the fore and found the young kayaker not just to be physically gifted but particularly good at doing training sessions and learning from them. During the lead-up to Rio, he says, “Lisa’s ability to tolerate training increased hugely and is getting stronger year upon year. She is good technically and has a real feel for the water.”
He has high hopes for her in the next four years and looks to bring more depth to her fitness in the 500m. “Running and aerobic cross-country are very beneficial for kayaking,” he says, “but most of the time it will be practice on the water… To be a coach and helping someone to achieve is a privileged position, and one that I’d love to carry on.”
(Extracts taken from RNZ Sport’s Mark Watson interview with Gordon Walker)