Tokyo Olympics: Family success source of inspiration for NZ kayak star Kurtis Imrie

Just 15 months out from the Tokyo Olympic Games, Canoe New Zealand have ramped up their campaign, sending one of their biggest teams to Europe.

16 men and women will contest the first World Cup in Poland and among them are siblings Kurtis Imrie and his older sister, Rio Olympian Kayla.

They're hoping it's just the start on the way to Tokyo success.

Just three years ago it was Kayla Imrie flying the family flag in Rio with her proud family watching on, Including brother Kurtis, then a teenager, who took inspiration from the success of his older sibling.

"It's phenomenal, you have all your idols in the world but having your sister achieve what she's achieving gives me hope that I'm from the same gene pool and I can hopefully achieve something," Kurtis Imrie told Newshub.

Kayla Imrie.
Kayla Imrie. Photo credit: Photosport

Now, he's attempting to live his own Olympic dream starting at in Poland next month.

Kayla - a three-time World Championship medallist - is a key part of the women's programme alongside the great Lisa Carrington

Kayla has been the source of plenty of advice since Kurtis took up the sport six years ago.

"That's the first I've heard about the idol thing," Kayla quirked

"He calls me quite a bit while I'm away. Just things he might be struggling with in training but also mental aspects of training and how to handle the pressure."

Her rise in the sport tempted Kurtis to give away his rugby dream.

"I chose kayaking because, well yeah Kayla helped - definitely helped me on the decision.

"I guess you have to sacrifice something to pursue another," Kurtis told Newshub.

After spending six years climbing up the junior ranks, Kurtis gets his first big chance at the World Cup.

He'll race the K2 with Max Brown with the goal of making the World Championship team and the opportunity to qualify a boat for the Tokyo Olympics.

"We've talked about it, after Rio when I was just getting back in the boat, that it would be an awesome opportunity if we both made it to the Olympics, so It's always been in the back of our minds," Kurtis said.

The next few months are crucial to making that goal a reality.