International paddling coach Vesna Radonich, a former Aotearoa New Zealand and world sprint champion, is back on Rarotonga for her eighth Vaka Eiva, with three crews of ladies she coaches.
The 2023 Vaka Eiva will be their third international
race and they hope one of many more to come.
Ngā Hau E Whā will feature three teams for the Iron
races and three for the Round Raro race.
“The idea was that I bring coaching clients together
and choose some races with them to experience – mostly international,” said
“It’s been an amazing journey with these wahine.”
The crew also paddled in the Queen Liliuokalani race
in Hawaii in September where they won a haul of medals including gold for the
V6 M40 standard, as well as Radonich’s gold in the V1 rudderless.
Radonich has been paddling since 2001, first picking
up a paddle in Sydney, Australia.
She participated in the first Vaka Eiva in 2004 and returned
several times over the years.
Radonich says Vaka Eiva is appealing since it has the
different disciplines of iron, changeover, individual and sprints (previously).
She also enjoys “the great atmosphere” of being around
paddlers from all around the world.
Radonich’s highlights of Vaka Eiva are “being around
some amazing athletes who are humble, being around the Cook Islands community
who have become like a second family to me”.
Last year Radonich brought over a Canadian team to
compete in the Cook Islands Nationals – a scaled down version of Vaka Evia. The
team managed podium finishes in the iron, singles and Round Raro races.
This year a big plus for her is the opportunity to
bring some of her coaching clients for the Round Raro race, and for many, it will
be their first international changeover race.
One of her big achievements is being amongst amazing
women on the water, “whether paddling with them or lining up to race them”.
“It’s so inspiring to see the lengths they go to for
the sport. Not just on the water but what they do off the water and in the
background for the sport, family, and career to enable them to paddle.”
Coaching on and off for individuals and teams for over
20 years, three years ago she started International Paddling Coach, where she
coaches paddlers all around the world, through online and face to face classes.
This year she celebrates 20 years, since her first
Vaka Evia race.
“Twenty years of friendships are still there, our
babies are friends, and catching up is always lots of laughs.
“A huge thank you to the amazing Cook Islands
community, you have been so supportive, encouraging and always are there to
help when I need,” Radonich said.
Bernie Murch, a medallist at the World Sprints, is joining
the Whaea Engines team made up of paddlers from throughout Aotearoa, most with
years of experience and some who have done Vaka Eiva a number of times. For a
few of her teammates, it will be their first time to Rarotonga.
Murch has raced in many international races both in sprint
and long distance V1 and OC1.
She was the New Zealand V1 500m Open Women’s Champion,
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and NZ MW40s 500m Champion 2006, 2007, 2009,
Murch, who dominated the NZ sprints scene in the early
2000s, was here for the first Vaka Eiva in 2004. She was also part of the winning
Waitakere team from Aotearoa in 2005 and 2006.
She is a medallist at World Sprints – bronze in Hilo
(Hawaii) 2004, and silver in NZ 2006 in opens and silver in MW40s.
Both Murch and Radonich were part of the silver medal
winning New Zealand Masters 40s team at this year’s International World Va’a
Long Distance in Samoa.