Carrington: Connecting to my Māori roots has helped me

Our most-decorated Olympian has revealed connecting with her Māori heritage has helped keep her steady as she embarks on a historic campaign in Tokyo.

Lisa Carrington made history yesterday with her K1 500m gold at the Sea Forest Waterway, claiming her sixth Olympic medal and fifth Olympic gold – both records by a New Zealand athlete.

It was also Carrington’s third gold medal in Tokyo alone, having previously won the K1 200m and K2 500m alongside Caitlin Regal. She returns to the water today seeking a fourth medal in the K4 500m.

The 32-year-old told Te Karare last month before she left for Tokyo a longing to strengthen her Māori identity helped her remain steady in life and on the water.

“As I've got older and got more experienced, matured a bit. my ability to connect back to my heritage and my identity has been really important and helpful,” Carrington said.

“To know my ancestors and what they did and the challenges that they went through so I could be here now has been a really cool realisation.

“I am both Māori and pākehā - to acknowledge both sides is really important.”

Carrington’s parents Glynis and Pat said they were proud to watch her journey of self-discovery.

Lisa Carrington during the New Zealand national anthem after winning gold in the K1 500m at the Tokyo Olympics. Source: Getty

“She's always had it in there, maybe she's sharing it with everyone a little bit more,” her mum said.

“The whanaungatanga [kinship], manaakitanga [kindness] in the team - Lisa has been driving that, acting and bringing it all together, it's been an important part of her development,” father Pat added.

While she's reconnecting with her own culture, she's enhancing the whakapapa of New Zealand sport not just by her record-breaking efforts - but her values too.

“It's like the kumara - it never speaks of it's sweetness,” Pat said.

“Even though she’s quite and humble, there's real strength in her and power within her.”