Serious Sisu: Teneale Hatton

Teneale "T-Rex" Hatton grew up next to the ocean and, it seems, with sea water flowing through her veins. From a young age the New Zealander was immersed in Surf Life Saving where she discovered her passion for paddling. At only 22, Teneale competed at her first Olympic Games in London in the sport of sprint canoeing; by the age of 24 she had successfully claimed five world titles and one world record.

Even though she has her eyes firmly focused on becoming the world’s best in her specialist event, the K1 500m,  she's also an elite surf lifesaver and world champion surf ski paddler. She's hoping to lead a triple life as she continues to train for the Ocean Ski World Championships this year, Surf Life Saving World Championships in 2016 and Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

 Credit: Sport Scene TV & Claudia Matos

Credit: Sport Scene TV & Claudia Matos

How do you fit in your multiple sporting personalities?

I do most of my training for the canoe sprint, but because of the volume of training we do - and my love of packing in as much racing experience as possible - I just jump in to do other events when it works around the canoe sprint. Surfskiing is what I grew up doing, so it's quite easy to jump back on a ski. When the weather is awful, I just take my ski out instead of my sprint boat. It's a lifestyle. 

What is the attracting to paddling?

I love the fact that I'm outdoors. There are many amazing things we get to experience out training: paddling with dolphins, whales, manatees, alligators, seals. You wouldn't be able to see these amazing creatures any other way. And I love being able to travel and meet so many new people. Some of my best friends are from overseas. 

There are many amazing things we get to experience... paddling with dolphins, whales, manatees, alligators, seals. You wouldn’t be able to see these amazing creatures any other way.
— Teneale Hatton

You're a World Champ and an Olympian. But what would you consider to be your greatest sporting achievement so far? 

Winning the K1 1000m last year and setting the world record. It wasn't just the result but how I raced that day.  I've long struggled in K1 races and I finally conquered that doubt, especially after being passed, and coming back to take the win.

Teneale's post win interview on WashRider

What gets you out of bed each morning?

I wake up because I remind myself what I want to achieve and that getting up now will get me one step closer to achieving my goals. 

What 'ingredients' do you attribute to your success?

Honestly, I think most of it is just hard work. My first coach told me I should give up ski paddling because I was pretty terrible when I first started, so I worked my butt off to do well. And I also think because I enjoy it so much, the hard work isn't hard work at all.  

What’s the one aspect of being an Olympian/pro athlete that no one tells you about?

The lifestyle can be tough. We get to travel, but you don't get to see much and you don't have much "down time". Also, if you are studying, you have to juggle study, assignments etc as well as your training load. It means sleepless nights to make sure everything is in one time. It's full on. You don't have much social time, even when you are at home.

You've had some incredible highs, but what about the lows? 

Trying to stay positive when you aren't achieving the results you want is tough. You have committed so much to training - you've pretty much put your life on hold - and then to not get the result on the day that you have been working so hard for can be earth shattering.

Also, getting to the point in training when you are so tired and exhausted but you have to keep going. That has to be one of the hardest parts, emotionally and physically. 

[When] you have committed so much to training - you’ve pretty much put your life on hold - and then to not get the result you have been working so hard for can be earth shattering.
— Teneale Hatton

How do you deal with self-doubt?

By reminding myself to do what's good for me. If I am trying my hardest, I believe I must be getting something out of it. Don't listen to what others are thinking or what others are doing; you have to have confidence that what you are doing is right for you. I also remind myself what I am capable of achieving and why I am doing what I am doing.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?

To not worry what others think or expect of you.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Don't let others opinions affect your choices. If you feel it's right, and you have done your research, then stick with it. 

Who inspires you?

Anyone defying the odds. It takes courage and determination to do that.

Finally, who do you think has serious "sisu"?

New Zealander shot putter, Valerie Adams. An incredibly hard working, determined and awesome lady. 


Follow Teneale's adventures on Facebook  or read more about this dynamic woman on her website,