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News posted on Tuesday 25th June, 2024

Paddling duo will take to the water in Paris

Peter Cowan (left) paddles his canoe. Scott Martlew (Right) paddles his canoe.

Three-time Paralympian Scott Martlew and Paralympic debutant Peter Cowan are the latest additions to the New Zealand Paralympic Team, with Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) naming the two Para athletes to compete in Para canoe events at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

Christchurch paddler Martlew will compete at his third Paralympic Games in the KL2 200m kayak event. Para va’a specialist Cowan, from Hawkes Bay, will make his Paralympic Games debut in the VL3 200m.

Greg Warnecke, PNZ Chief Executive Officer, says: “We’re thrilled to have two Para canoe athletes of the calibre of Scott and Peter in the New Zealand Paralympic Team in Paris. Scott has such a wealth of knowledge and experience with two Paralympic Games behind him, while Peter brings fresh talent and enthusiasm to the Team in his Paralympic Games debut.”

Cowan, who is of Samoan and Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu) descent, is a member of the Haeata Ocean Sports and Hawkes Bay Kayak Racing Club and races the Para va’a, an adaptive version of waka ama.

He was 15 when he was hit by a car while training for the Iron Māori triathlon. He made the difficult decision to have his injured leg amputated and discovered paddling in his final year of high school.

In May, Cowan qualified a spot for New Zealand in the VL3 200m when he achieved a remarkable milestone in his paddling career – winning silver in the Para va’a at the ICF Para Canoe World Championships in Szeged, Hungary. In the thrilling VL3 200m final, Cowan finished just 0.071 seconds behind Ukraine’s Vladyslav Yepifanov – setting up an exciting showdown in Paris.

“My coach and I went into those world champs with a game plan to race consistently and with precision. We just wanted to race three great races,” Cowan says. “Winning silver sent positive waves through our team and wider support group. We are proud to see our efforts bringing forth some awesome results like that and I feel it’s inspired everyone else to work hard towards Paris.”

A father of two boys, aged four and two, Cowan is looking forward to receiving “little voice messages from them on race day”.

“Becoming a Paralympian means a great deal to me and my family, who’ve come with me on this journey,” he says. “It’s been a goal of mine for a very long time, and to finally see what it takes to get there, makes me really appreciate my achievement. It’s so much more than just putting a paddle in the water – it takes so much effort and sacrifice, which makes this even more special for me and my family.”

Martlew, Paralympian #198, became an above-the-knee amputee following complications from a rugby injury that almost cost him his life.

Active in paddle sports before focusing on kayaking at 16, his dream of competing at a Paralympic Games was realised in 2016 when Para canoe was first introduced at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

In his Paralympic debut, Martlew lifted his world ranking to eighth. At his second Paralympics in Tokyo, he was narrowly pipped for bronze in the Men’s 200m KL2 kayak final, and reached the final of the Men’s 200m VL3 va’a final, finishing eighth.

Since then, Martlew has won bronze in the KL2 200m at the 2022 ICF Para Canoe World Championships; his fourth placing at the 2023 ICF Para Canoe World Championships secured a slot for New Zealand at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

“It feels pretty amazing to have my selection ticked off, and I’m proud to be going to my third Paralympic Games,” Martlew says. “With only a three-year duration between Games, we committed to the Paris campaign straight after Tokyo. It’s been a long journey, though, with plenty of ups and downs and through many struggles, trying to juggle training with life.”

To finally win an elusive Paralympic medal has been a driver for Martlew, who works 30 hours a week as an estimator for construction company Downer but is now on leave to prepare for Paris.

“Everyone wants to win or get a medal, so it’s about putting my best foot forward and producing the best race that I can,” he says. “Hopefully that’s good enough to get on the podium this time. I try to better myself every day.”

Graham Oberlin-Brown, Canoe Racing NZ CEO, says: “Canoe Racing New Zealand is thrilled to see Scott Martlew’s selection for the Paris 2024 NZ Paralympic Team, marking his third consecutive appearance at the Paralympic Games. Scott’s relentless dedication and hard work have made this achievement possible, and we eagerly anticipate seeing him once again represent New Zealand and Canoe Racing with pride. We extend our gratitude to Paralympics New Zealand for their unwavering support.”

Lara Collins, Waka Ama Aotearoa New Zealand, Chief Executive, says: “Waka Ama NZ and our Waka Ama whānau are excited for Peter Cowan to be selected as a member of the NZ Paralympic Team for 2024. Peter and his coach Myka Nuku have worked very hard for many years and Peter’s current performance is a testament to all of that hard work and dedication. Being selected to represent Aotearoa at the Paralympics is a great achievement for not only Peter but all of his whānau and supporters. We can’t wait to watch Peter represent New Zealand and his Waka Ama whānau on the world stage. Thank you to Paralympics New Zealand and High Performance Sport NZ for all their support. Good luck to all the athletes taking part in the Paris 2024 Paralympics.”

Martlew and Cowan join 12 Para athletes already named in the NZ Paralympic Team, in the sports of Para athletics, Para badminton, Para equestrian, Para swimming and Para table tennis. 

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