Applications for the Executive Board
May 1, 2016
Vacancy: National Sports Coordinator
May 6, 2016

12322947_1059772610734253_337916718266587033_oHearing impaired waka ama paddler Vesna Aroha Radonich, world waka ama champion is going back to defend her World title in May this year. She is coming back after taking time of to have a baby and is certainly already dominating the waka ama world and letting her presence be known that she is serious about winning GOLD.

This year already her team Kaiarahi Toa GOLD at NZ Waka Ama Sprint Championships 2016 in the:

  • W6 500m
  • W12 500m
  • W6 1500m

This is Vesna’s story…

Because they won we get not only to represent NZ at the World Sprint Championships, they will get the best lane because we are the fastest in the country. Each age category can have up to 6 teams represent that category for one country at the World CLUB Championships. We had set our goal to win GOLD as realistically we knew that is what we had to achieve to be in a position to medal at Worlds.

She came back into her solo event winning SILVER in the W1 Master women and will represent NZ in the solo event. Another achievement she can tick off her bucket list.

This year the sport introduced ELITE World Championships, which means each country can only enter 1 womens and 1 mens team to represent their country. In basic terms it is the best of the best paddlers in each country. She is proud to say that she made all races for the ELITE team. Which she said is a big achievement to get after coming back from having a baby as the last Worrld Sprints she competed in she won the GOLD in both the solo and team events.


February this year 6 of the 12 strong ELITE paddlers were selected to go to the Austrailan National Waka Ama Sprint Championships, Vesna was one of the 6 paddlers chosen. This was an opportunity for the ELITE paddlers to practice at the official race venue for the World Waka Ama Sprint Championships to be held in May 2016.

Vesna went on to dominate the W1 solo event in the masters, taking GOLD by 8 seconds ahead of the second place getter and her ELITE team got GOLD in the team event. This was just what Vesna needed after her SILVER medal at the NZ Championships.

“I had taken my experience from NZ Championships and worked on the things I needed to do better next time. And knew at the Worlds you only get one chance to get it right. Having the opportunity to compete at Australian Championships enabled me to really do it BETTER and learnt what I can do now moving towards GOLD for the World Championships.”

She said a big part of her success over in Australia was having her relatives come down and support. As Vesna’s mum past away 3 years ago and she was very close to her, “Mum was my rock, greatest supporter, there for me when I needed someone to talk to. Having my mum’s brother come and support me, really felt like mum was there with them. Really made me want to paddle hard for them.”

12496407_1274851062531025_5548611883239477282_oVesna acknowledges her mum (Daphne nee Hodgson, daughter of Liane Arianna nee Nikora) alot, especially being part Maori of Ngati Maniapoto (Kapatuhi Marae) descent. They taught me to be connected to my wairua (spiritual side), tupuna (ancestors) and whakapapa (genelogy).

“I am so grateful to have two beautiful cultures, Croatian and Maori. The reason they are beautiful is because FAMILY is number one to them both. Family has always been the most important thing to me. They are my rock, allow me to be me and love me unconditionally.”

So now she is preparing for the World ELITE and CLUB championships, when are they happening?

  • 8-9 May is the ELITE World Championships
    10-15 May is the CLUB World Championships

At Lake Kawana, Sunshine Coast, Australia

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A big thank you to my FAMILY support Mladen, Senka, Luka Radonich, my cousins, friends, Kapatuhi whanau and supporters who have helped me on my journey.

As I have learnt that the World Sprint Championships isn’t just about gettting the gold but the JOURNEY that I have taken to get there. And must say it has been challenging with a little baby, living away from family and my partner working long hours.

Would get up 3.30-3.45am to train for most months as my partner started work 6am and I needed to get my training in before then.

Lunchtime would be a short quick training to keep my endurance fitness up

Then sometimes 4 evenings a week baby would be with wonderful babysitters to get me to training with my team

Training camps were monthly and closer to the time almost every fortnight. Again baby having to go to babysitters and would you belive that many times I did feel guilty as really wanted to spend time with him.

Now 1 week out before I head off to the Worlds, I love my partner and baby so much and so grateful for their support and putting up with my grumpy tiredness, quick meals and big loads of washing.

If it wasn’t for them and my family, friends support I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing now.

“I may not be the best in the world, but I will do what ever it takes to win. To me that is a champion!”

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