Canoe sprint pair set for Olympic debut after being selected for Tokyo

Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie are set to make their Olympic debuts after earning selection to the men’s K2 1000m boat for the Tokyo Games.

Sprint canoeists Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie have been selected for the Tokyo Olympics. Source: Photosport

The pair were officially announced today at Lake Karapiro as the first New Zealand canoe sprint paddlers to earn selection for Tokyo.

Brown and Imrie enjoyed a breakthrough international campaign in 2019 – placing eighth in the K2 1000m A Final at the World Cup in Poznan, Poland.

Later that year the duo finished joint sixth in the B Final of the K2 1000m at the World Championships in Szeged, Hungary before qualifying a New Zealand boat for the Tokyo Olympics via the 2020 Oceania Championships in Sydney, Australia.

For both paddlers, Olympic selection is rich reward for a competitive kayaking career spanning more than a decade.

Brown, 26, who originally hails from Whanganui, grew up playing in bands and also enjoyed big mountain skiing before taking up paddling at the age of 15.

Making his international debut in 2013, Brown later graduated with a Bachelor in Music from the NZ School of Music at Victoria, Wellington.

“I’m absolutely stoked to have been selected to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games. As a young kid I would never have dreamed I would be good enough to challenge at this level," Brown said.

Imrie, 25, the younger brother of Kayla, a 2016 Rio Olympic paddler and three-time World Championship medallist, is a former surf lifesaver who took up the sport of kayaking aged “15 or 16” with the Mana Club in Wellington.

A paddler of rich promise, he placed fifth in the A final of the K1 1000m at the 2014 World Junior Championships before later stepping up and forming an impressive combination with Brown.

“It’s always been a dream to go to the Olympics and represent my country at the world’s pinnacle sporting event," Imrie said.

"It’s pretty surreal that a big dream of mine is actually coming true. Hopefully I’ll get to experience the Olympics alongside my big sister Kayla as that would be such a special moment for our family.”

Brown and Imrie will be New Zealand’s first men’s K2 1000m representatives since Darryl Fitzgerald and Steven Ferguson placed seventh in the A Final at the 2012 London Olympics.

New Zealand has won one Olympic medal in the event when Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald snared silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The women’s canoe sprint team for the Tokyo Olympics will be selected closer to Games time.