World and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington is in a confident frame of mind as she eyes an unprecedented canoe sprint world championship double this week.
Carrington will spearhead a nine-strong New Zealand team in Milan when racing begins tonight, with the championships doubling as a qualifier for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The 26-year-old is a warm favourite in the K1 200m - the event in which she's the reigning world and Olympic champion - but she'll also try and add the K1 500m world title for the first time, despite a hectic schedule of four consecutive days of racing.
"Just having the experience of racing over the last two years, racing both K1 500m and 200m, has given me the confidence that I can do both events," Carrington said. "My training schedule has also prepared me to compete in both events so I have the stamina and fitness to do both."
Carrington picked up K1 500m silver at last year's world championships in Moscow, although Hungary's gold medalist Danuta Kozák is likely to focus on K2 and K4 team boats this week. Kozák lost the recent Hungarian national trials to rising under-23 star Anna Kárász, who shapes as Carrington's main rival in the longer distance, while Beijing Olympic champion Inna Osypenko-Radomska, having switched nationalities from Ukraine to Azerbaijan, also looms as a big threat.
Polish paddler Marta Walczykiewicz, who finished second to Carrington in the K1 200m world championship final, is likely to be in the mix in the shorter distance, although the Kiwi hasn't been touched at world cup level in recent years and sounded a warning to her rivals she's in as good a shape as ever.
"My preparation for these worlds has gone really well - every year since the last Olympics, I've been able to build up and build up and this year has been really good. Just having another year under my belt and being able to work on those things I need to work on has helped me get stronger and fitter."
Paraconoeist Scott Martlew will start the New Zealand campaign, having been confirmed in the tough KL3 division, with Carrington, fellow K1 paddler Marty McDowell (K1 1000m) and men's K2 pairing Darryl Fitzgerald and Zac Franich racing heats and semifinals on Thursday.
The women's K4 of Jaimee Lovett, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Kayla Imrie aren't racing until Friday night, although there are high hopes the crew will be able to qualify a team boat in Rio after a strong world cup debut earlier this year.
The New Zealand team arrived in Milan on Sunday, after a varied buildup. McDowell and Carrington spent time trialing a pre-Olympic training base in Spain before heading to Slovenia, where they met up with the women's K4 and men's K2.
The team also used Rowing New Zealand's base at Lake Bohinj for some of their harder sessions, with Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale following their progress from the comfort of the coach boat last week.
Canoe Racing New Zealand chief executive Mark Weatherall was confident the big investment in the team, supported by High Performance Sport New Zealand, would pay dividends this week.
"We've deliberately set the bar high for our athletes this year and they've really worked hard to get to Milan," Weatherall said. "We're pretty excited about our prospects this week and hopefully that hard work will translate into some good results."