From Piha to Paris - Ford New Zealand PR Chief's Son is off to the Games in Paris this Summer

Jul 02, 2024

It’s a long way from New Zealand’s Piha Beach to the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium in Paris, but the best way to get there is by paddling.

Grant Clancy – son of Ford New Zealand communications chief Tom – will represent his home country at the 33rd Olympic Games in August, preparing to paddle for gold in the men’s two-man canoe (C2) and four-man kayak (K4) flat water sprint races.

While canoeing and kayaking may seem like similar activities outside of racing, the two Olympic sprint disciplines are quite different. Canoe teams use a single-bladed paddle and kneel in the boat, while kayak competitors sit in the boat and use a double-bladed paddle.

“It’s odd for a PR guy to be at a loss for words, but I’m super proud, thrilled and elated,” Tom said. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet – and there’s a lot of work to do before they get to Paris – but hearing his name read out by the New Zealand Olympic Committee was pretty emotional.”

Grant got his start in paddle sports at the age of seven when he joined the Piha Beach Surf Life Saving Club – a volunteer service that patrols one of New Zealand’s most notorious stretches of coastline during the summer months.

There he discovered a natural talent for surf ski racing – something that Tom jokes started with family kayak fishing trips in and around rivers and coastal waters of the Waitakere Ranges, west of Auckland.

“Canoeing just became another way to train for surf-ski racing during the off-season,” Tom said. “He trained a lot with the North Shore Canoe Club where many of New Zealand’s best paddlers and coaches are based.”

“He used to go to training early in the morning and was sent to detention for being so late, so many times, that he wasn’t allowed to go to his high school ball,” Tom said. “He’s pretty excited to go back and tell everyone it was all worth it.”

Grant and his K4 crew will take to the water on August 6 – almost 40 years to the day since New Zealand dominated the sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. They’ll also have the experience of New Zealand’s most successful Olympian and fellow paddler Dame Lisa Carrington to draw on. The Paris Games will be Carrington’s fourth Olympics, and she’ll be looking to add to the five gold and one bronze medals collected at the London, Rio and Tokyo Games.

Before then, there’s a lot of work to do. Crews will continue to train in New Zealand before heading to training camps in Spain and Italy to prepare for Paris.

And there, shouting from the banks of the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium will be Tom and his wife Kelly.

“It’s going to be incredible,” said Tom. “I’m sure there will be a lot of pressure on the guys to perform, but Grant says that he feels like everyone who has ever helped him is in the boat too – and that motivates him to go faster and further with every stroke.”