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Sophia Lawson: sheer determination

From Hawke's Bay to Hungary for the 2022 World Championships

Sophia Lawson’s sporting ability was evident at an early age

As a young kid she played football for Havelock North Wanderers. She was a Hawkes Bay junior representative tennis player, and a swimmer for the Sundevils Heretaunga swimming team.

Due to the usual sports-related issues and injuries, she has a longstanding relationship with Focus Health. “They will probably be relieved to know I no longer participate in those activities” she says. Instead, she decided to pursue her passion for canoe racing.

That seemed to be going pretty well for her too. She was a member of the Hawke’s Bay Kayaking Club when she was selected for NZ U16 team to compete at the Asia-Pacific event in Japan.

Unfortunately, due to Covid travel restrictions, this event was cancelled. After the initial disappointment, Sophia was determined to keep up her intensive training in the hope of a second chance to represent her country.

Fast forward two years, and that chance has come

She has been selected as a member of the Junior World Championship New Zealand Sprint Kayaking team to compete in the K4 event in Hungary this August.

Much of her training is done at Lake Karapiro, a ten minute drive from Cambridge, where she now lives. It’s a busy life; as well as preparing for a World Championship event, Sophia is studying towards a Bachelor of Business Studies degree at the University of Waikato.

Her typical training regime involves six to eight on-water sessions and three gym sessions every week. Her ‘sports specific’ strength and conditioning work targets upper body as you’d expect, but also focuses on core strength. Racing kayaks are narrow, unstable craft and require good core strength and balance to control.

As well as individual preparation, training camps at Karapiro bring the four paddlers together to mesh as a team. “We all know each other, and know each others style” says Sophia. The team will get about ten days of training together before the real thing in late August.

Sophia Lawson: core strength for kayakers

"For balance and core strength, we sit on a Swiss ball with our feet on another small ball. This mimics the motion of paddling a “skinny and wobbly” racing kayak.

Gluteal/abdominal muscle activation and pelvic control are also important parts of the balance and core strength requirements. For this, we would focus on anterior, posterior and lateral pelvic tilts and being aware of where our pelvic position.

One exercise we do for this is lying on your back with your legs in 90-degree angle while lowering one leg to the ground at a time. While doing this you want to be pulling your hips towards you to avoid your back arching. This will also help activate the deep core muscles."

The value of physiotherapy

"I would say the most valuable lesson I have learnt from physiotherapy would be the importance of core strength and warming up / activation before training."

"The importance of core strength helps me to become more stable in the boat and allows me to be able to move in a twisting motion through the torso more effectively to get full rotation and power in the catch.

The warming up/activation before training is valuable as it will help prepare me for the kayaking activity by increasing blood flow, moving the joints and activating the muscles. It will also get my cardiovascular system warmed up and begin to help raise my heart rate ready for a paddle/gym session."

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