As eight year old Lisa watched Danyon Loader win gold, her Dad turned to her and said “Why don’t you go to the Olympics?”
That thought must have stuck, since Carrington has now won her second consecutive Gold Medal in the WK1 200m Canoe Sprint race. It was also Lisa's 14th consecutive major title over the 200m distance, which includes four World Championships and a number of ICF World Cup series rounds.
What’s more, Carrington has added a bronze medal to her haul, in the longer WK1 500m division.
The extraordinary effort makes her the first New Zealand woman to win two Olympic medals in a single Olympics, joining a very small group of male athletes including childhood hero Danyon Loader. Lisa was the first Maori to win a Gold Medal and now double Olympic Medal.
Lisa Carrington Interview from NewsHub
Kayaking commentators site Lisa as the top paddler of the moment, male or female. They point to her consistency, focus and air of calm. This could be because of her ability to see the big picture: it’s never about one race, it’s about showing an improvement every time she gets out there.
You work harder, trying to find that edge, and keep pushing the boundaries. It's about making those gains and improving. If that happens there will be a gold medal or there won't be a gold medal. I've just got to focus on the inputs and not result-based things.
Lisa Carrington exhausted after winning her ICF World Canoe Sprint WK1 500m race earlier this year.
Yet she is equally well known for her humbleness and humility. She attributes her great success to hours of training and a great support team, including Coach Gordon Walker. Even her Grandma, Doreen Carrington, is impressed by Carrington's humility: “... [Lisa] put in the hard yards and she never, ever boasts about her achievements”.
New Zealand kayaking is fortunate to have such a successful and well-rounded athlete for its up-and-coming paddlers to aspire to.
Born in Tauranga, Lisa spent her formative years in Ohope. She followed brothers, Shaun and Brett, into surf lifesaving and took up kayaking to improve her paddling in the off season.
A natural athlete, Lisa also represented the Bay of Plenty at youth netball – but stopped growing at 168cm, too short for professional netball.
Lisa set her sights on professional kayaking: she joined the Eastern Bay of Plenty Club and attended Ian Ferguson’s formal training camp in Rotorua.
She was a natural, she showed she had flow from the start.
What followed was a couple of years of hard training, representing NZ in the K2 and K4 at an international level and getting the bug for high level competition.
In 2008 she moved to Auckland to focus on high level training. Partnered with Tanele Hatton, the pair won Gold in the K2W 500m at the Oceania World Cup. The highlight of this period was making it to the K2W 500m A Final at the ICF World Sprint Champs.
In 2010 Lisa got her first Nelo Kayak, the Nelo K1 Quattro, the most successful sprint racing kayak ever produced.
Soon after, at the 2011 ICF World Champs in Hungary, when she really started to shine. Lisa and new K2 partner, Erin Taylor placed ninth in the WK2 500m and qualified for the 2012 London Olympic games. They were ecstatic. (Spoiler alert – they came 7th at the London Olympics.)
What came next was even more of a defining moment. Competing solo in the K1W 200m Carrington took Gold – and in just 39.998 sec.
I was shocked to realise I had won. It was an amazing feeling, since I had never achieved anything like that before.
Fast forward to the London 2012 Olympics, Carrington was the fastest qualifier and, since it was the first time the K1W 200m had been raced, she set a World Record Olympic time of 40.528 sec in her semi-final. She easily won the A final with half a boat length over her rivals to win Gold.
Lisa started racing in the K1W 500m in 2013, to try to stretch herself, to inject some new interest and challenges into her paddling. And it worked. She started at third and quickly worked her way up to first in the world rankings at that distance.
I'm just really happy to be challenged and having that carrot on the end of the stick, trying to chase something and just looking forward, always on the attack, trying to work harder. That's all you can ask for, that type of motivation.
The achievement Lisa says she is most proud of is her World Record for K1W 200m, set on 10 August 2014 at the ICF World Sprint Champs in Russia.
In her signature style, she was quick out of the blocks, leading throughout the race, steadily lengthening the gap in terminator style to finish in a mind-boggling time of 37.898 seconds. Lisa finished that race nearly a full boat length and almost a second ahead of nearest her rival. Outstanding.
She says it would be extremely difficult, even for herself, to beat her record since a whole series of factors must be in play: the race itself has to qualify to be timed for the World Records; conditions need to be near perfect; the athlete must be at the peak of their training cycle; and they need to have a good day.
Her reign of domination continues as the highest ranked paddler in the world. In the ICF Sprint World Cup earlier this year she tallied three golds and one silver over two rounds. She is currently ranked the world number one women's sprint kayaker.
The road to the Rio olympics has been long and hard. Carrington's coach, Gordon Walker, has a philosophy of constantly tweaking and improving their training as they go. The coach is known for his appreciation of technology, such as the Vaaka Cadence Sensor, for collecting and interpreting the data in order to constantly train smarter.
Carrington's infamous 'guns' are credited to her love of chin-ups. She balances her gym workouts with palettes for strength and flexibility, and stationary bike for fitness. Most of the hard yards are done out on the water.
Change is something you need to embrace. You need to work out how can we change without throwing away the things that have worked very, very well. It's the evolution of a long-term plan. We've got a good plan but we're always sandpapering it on those edges, always trying to make little improvements.
Coach Gordon Walker
Lisa racing her custom painted Nelo K1 Cinco
One off these improvements was being an early adopter of the Nelo K1 Cinco. The revolutionary design pushes the paddler forward for an even quicker start. The feeling was quite different to the Nelo Quattro.
The Cinco responds differently – it wants to go forward instead of going sideways. It rocks less and propels forwards. At a good speed it sits on top of the water... I trust Nelo to be relevant and using the latest technology, and I need to keep up with this.
After the success of the World's, the pair stayed in Europe, delaying their arrival to Rio in order to keep training in optimal conditions as long as possible. They arrived in Rio on the 10th August 2016.
Lisa won the 2016 Rio WK1 200m on the 16th August and clocking a new Olympic Best time of 39.864sec. She beat her previous Gold Medal winning Olympic Best time, set at the 2012 London Olympics, of 40.528sec.
Carrington also holds the World Record time of 37.898sec, set in 2014 at the ICF World Champs in Russia. What a legend.
The 500m was equally hard fought, with Lisa holding back perhaps a little too long, coming through the pack to take 3rd at the post.It is a scary thing, knowing you're going out there and might be able to win a gold medal. It's like, this is pretty special. It's exciting knowing you can do it and you've been given the opportunity. It might never happen again, maybe for as long as I paddle. Who knows, this could be the fastest I ever go. I've got to make the most of it. Lisa Carrington
After the Rio Olympics, Lisa was rewarded with a plethora of awards in recognition of her extraordinary achievements.
First, Lisa won the 2016 Maori Sportswoman of the Year and Māori Sportsperson of the Year (her second year in a row).
At the 54th Halberg Awards, Lisa won High Performance New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year, and the Supreme Halberg Award - easily the top sporting honour in New Zealand.
Lisa's longtime coach, Gordon Walker, was also honoured for his role in her success with the Buddle Finlay Coach of the Year Award.
After a few months off to rest and recharge, Lisa has turned her focus to team racing.
Training in different ways, mentally and physically, is a great way to avoid burn out. It's a strategy that worked for Hungarian Danuta Kozak, who won three gold medals at Rio in the K1 500m, WK2 500m and WK4 500m.
"It can be pretty consuming just doing K1 so I'm trying to relieve that pressure and things have to be different. For me it's about trying out new things - are there other ways of doing things I haven't discovered before. It's really refreshing." Lisa told The New Zealand Herald.
It's a great move for the New Zealand Team as a whole, given the depth of talent in the country. With the retirement of Jaimee Lovett from professional racing, the timing is perfect for Lisa to jump into the K4 boat that won a bronze medal in Rio. CRNZ is also partnering Lisa in the K2 with the other tier one athletes to see who clicks: Aimee Fisher in Round one (Portugal) and Caitlin Ryan in Round 2 (Hungary).
So far results are spectacular. Although Round 1 was small in terms of the number of teams racing participating, the NZ team looked very convincing. Lisa and Aimee won in both the WK2 200m and WK2 500m (with Aimee Fisher), and another gold with the K4 team (with Fisher, Ryan and Imirie) in the WK4 500m.
Birthday: 23 June 1989
Born: Tauranga, New Zealand
Team: Eastern Bay of Plenty
Lives in: North Shore, Auckland
Whakapapa: Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngāti Porou descent.
Studying: for post-graduate diploma in psychology (which she would most like to get into post-sports career)
Coach: Gordon Walker
Favourite distance: "After 300 meters in really starts to hurt so I guess 300 meters would be my dream distance," Carrington says.
It is not the mountain we conquer, it is ourselves.
Sir Edmond Hillary
2011 Gold K1 200m
2012 Gold K1 200m
2013 Gold K1 200m, Bronze K1 500m
2014 Gold K1 200m, Silver K1 500m
2015 Gold K1 200m, Gold K1 500m
2016 Gold K1 200m x 2, Gold K1 500m, Silver K1 500m
Ranked World #1 Womens Sprint Canoe overall
2012 gold K1 200m
2016 Gold K1 200m
2016 Bronze K1 500m