Nowhere to Hyde for top swimmer

Swimming - National Short Course Championships 2018
Tauranga swimmer Matt Hyde on his way to victory in the 400m freestyle at the recent New Zealand short course championships in Auckland. Photo by Simon Watts/BWmedia Photography

Matt Hyde knows only too well that the road to the Tokyo Olympics is paved in persistence, etched in exertion and dripping in discipline.

There are no short-cuts; only steps on the ladder and milestones to tick off.

The 21-year-old Tauranga swimmer has just qualified for his first world championships, after dipping more than 2secs under FINA’s 400m freestyle ‘B’ standard time at the recent national short course titles in Auckland. He’ll join an 18-strong New Zealand team heading to Hangzhou, China, in early December.

It’s not yet a cause for celebration, however – for Hyde, it’s just a reminder he’s on the right track, with a lot more work about to come his way.

“It’s very exciting but it’s another step towards where I want to be, just a step in the right direction,” Hyde said. “There was a bit of relief because I didn’t know how fast I was going to swim and whether I was going to make the time. It still hasn’t really sunk in that I’m going but as we get closer, the excitement and the nerves will start building.”

Hyde won the 400m national title with a 3min 49.52sec effort, well inside the FINA ‘B’ qualifying time of 3:51.93. He also won the 800m free and added bronze in the 200m. Having already been in two national teams attending Oceania championships, the China trip will be next-level, racing and testing himself against the best in the world.

It’s the result of countless toil, up to 65km of swimming each week, under the watchful eye of coach Daniel Cooper.

Most of his pool-mates are younger – nonchalant teens splashing alongside – or older, bone-weary masters trying to retain the last echoes of their youth.  While Hyde relentlessly chugs through his sessions, Cooper quietly offers advice from poolside, with  father Laurie occasionally leaning in to test his son’s lactate thresholds.

Hyde’s carefree teenage years are well behind him now; he’s now into the realms of the serious swimmer, albeit with a Bachelor of Science degree from Massey University bubbling in the background.

“From when I first started swimming, there’s maybe one guy left who’s still racing against me. I almost quit when I was 15 but it’s all about perseverance. My old coach Graeme used to say ‘we want you to be swimming fast when you’re 21, 22 or 23, when you’re reaching the peak of your physical ability, rather than burning you out when you’re 17, 18 or 19’ and that really holds true.”

That old coach was Graeme Laing, son of the legendary Duncan, and himself a coaching mentor to former national backstroke star Cooper.

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The long black line to success – Matt Hyde pounds his way through sets at the Toi Ohomai Aquatic Centre in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Through those links with Laing Jnr, Hyde still competes under the Matamata banner, though Cooper jokingly refers to his squad as the ‘Pool Gypsies’, swimming at Toi Ohomai each weekday morning as the sun rises, then heading across to the Mount College pool as the sun sets in the evening.

Cooper, who has scrawled ’87 weeks until Olympic trials’ across his training whiteboard, knows full-well the importance of patience and playing the long game. Like his star charge, the coach is a quiet, slightly introverted presence, shying away from hyperbole and preferring results to speak for themselves.

“Making this team is very significant for Matt in that it keeps his fire burning for his goal of getting to the Tokyo Olympics,” Cooper said. “It’s that first step to a pinnacle event where he’s going to gain a whole lot of experience against the best swimmers in the world – he’s raced some of them before at the likes of the Queensland champs but these will be another step up again and it’s an event that really means something.”

The next step for Hyde, after his trip to China, is to transfer his short course improvements into the long course 50m pool, where his 400m personal best is 3:57 but he needs a 3:53.58 to make the Olympic ‘B’ time, or a 3:46.78 to make the ‘A’ threshold.

He’s also got some handy rivals on the New Zealand scene, although Taranaki’s Zac Reid is focused more on the 800m, Olympian Matt Stanley is concentrating on the 200m free and Commonwealth Games medalist Lewis Clareburt is more of a individual medley and butterfly specialist. Either one of these swimmers would be serious 400m threats, however, along with the likes of North Shore’s Bradlee Ashby and Howick’s Daniel Hunter.

There’s nothing Hyde can do about them, however – he’d be the first to cheer them on. Instead, he’ll just stick to his own knitting… which in his case means painstakingly stitching length upon length, constantly searching for small threads of improvement, day after day after day.

“It’s a struggle sometimes but I just love it. Some days you want the bottom of the pool to open up and swallow you but you just get through those sessions, bank them away, and get back to enjoying the sport. You can see it does pay dividends in the end and it helps get you through those low points. I love training and I love competing and I just push through it.”

New Zealand team competing at the world short course championships in Hangzhou, China, from December 11-16:
Bradlee Ashby (North Shore), George Schroder (Hokitika), Vanessa Ouwehand (St Peter’s), Ruby Matthews (Evolution Aquatics), Hayley McIntosh (Northwave), Paige Flynn (St Peter’s), Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore), Carina Doyle (North Shore), Yeonsu Lee (North Shore), Ciara Smith (Northwave), Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga), Matt Hyde (Matamata), Andrew Jeffcoat (Fairfield), Quinton Hurley (Jasi), Caitlin Deans (Neptune), Gina McCarthy (Hillcrest), Rebecca Moynihan (Raumati), Emma Godwin (Heretaunga Sundevils).

 

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Cover girl’s brush with stardom

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The cover of the first New Zealand Kiwifruit Journal from May, 1984.

It’s an instant classic – a cute little blonde kid caught munching a kiwifruit, cheekily grinning at the camera.

In reality, the first-ever Kiwifruit Journal cover in May 1984 featured a 5-year-old with a sore throat, surrounded by an astonishing mix of New Zealand creative talent.

These days, ‘Angie McGregor’ is 40, with a few silver streaks in her now-brown hair and a sensitive job that’s meant we’ve changed her name for this story.

She was more than happy, however, to chat about the 1983 photoshoot – one that turned out to be the high-point of her modelling career – once we had tracked her down through the power of social media.

“I’d had my tonsils out earlier in the week so only ate one spoonful of kiwifruit during the whole shoot,” ‘Angie’ laughed. “I was also paid the massive sum of $40 for the day – but that was pretty amazing for a 5-year-old, considering how many lollies came in a 20c bag back then!”

The shoot was part of a worldwide campaign entitled ”All the world loves New Zealand Kiwifruit”, produced by MacHarman Advertising for the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority.

MacHarman Advertising was led for 30 years by Bob Harvey – now Sir Bob – who made his name as a legend of the 1980s advertising world, became an influential political strategist and was a long-serving mayor of Waitakere City.

The photographer Sir Bob used for that kiwifruit shoot was Roger Donaldson, future blockbusting Hollywood director of films such as ‘Cocktail’, ‘Dante’s Peak’ and ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’.

And completing the illustrious lineup was the art director, Dick Frizzell, who has gone on to become one of New Zealand’s most important artists and the creator of the iconic ‘Four Square Man’ print and the ‘Mickey to Tiki‘ lithograph.

“Roger had a studio in Parnell and Dick spent a lot of years in advertising – it was a bit of an all-star cast and it was a really classy campaign to be part of,” Sir Bob explained. “We had accounts with the New Zealand Meat Board, Watties and Bluebird chips, among others, and I think it was our food connections which got us the job.”

It proved to be one of Donaldson’s final advertising jobs; after directing earlier Kiwi hits like Sleeping Dogs (1977) and Smash Palace (1981), he was soon working on his break-through international film The Bounty, which starred Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. Ironically, The Bounty was released on May 4, 1984 – the same week the very first Kiwifruit Journal hit letterboxes.

While there was plenty of glamour on the creative side of the kiwifruit photoshoot, the modelling resources came from a little closer to home. Two of Sir Bob’s own children, Rupert and Tessa, made the cut, while a number of other staff members provided their progeny.

“I was selected because I was blonde and had all of my teeth – plus my mum was friends with Bob Harvey’s assistant!” ‘Angie’ adds.

She also concedes there was a bit of fame at the time: “I believe the posters were also used at Kiwifruit Country on one of the rides, as my best friend made her family go on the ride with my picture on it.”

While Sir Bob still has all the proofs from that shoot tucked away at home, ‘Angie’ also has a lasting reminder; another photo-card from that same shoot, hanging on her wall.

“Even today, it’s still a great talking piece.”

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The cover of this month’s 250th Kiwifruit Journal, featuring Paengaroa’s Penny Lyford.

 

Mud sweat and tears for rugby fundraiser

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Rodger McBrydie (left) and Dan Goodwin at the site of the inaugural Tauranga Boys’ College Mud Challenge near Pahoia.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

You could say Rodger McBrydie and Dan Goodwin are experts in their field – as long as that field is a churned-up bog with barely a blade of grass showing.

What Goodwin doesn’t know about mud, after years playing club rugby for Te Puke and blindside for Bay of Plenty, isn’t worth knowing.  McBrydie, meanwhile, has comfortably lost count of the number of runs he’s dished out to hyperactive hot-shots in his long-serving role as a PE teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College.
Now the pair have combined their specialties for the inaugural Tauranga Boys’ College Mud Challenge, a 6km mud run through the wilds of Pahoia on August 26, to raise funds for the school’s rugby hardship fund.
“We use our hardship fund to support families so that money isn’t a barrier to their boys playing rugby,” McBrydie explained. “Money shouldn’t be a reason for students to miss out on all the awesome things sport has to offer.  That’s also why we picked the Mud Challenge as a fundraiser – as the name suggests, it’ll be a challenge, it will be exhausting and it will probably be uncomfortable but we fully expect everyone to cross the finish line with a massive grin on their face.”
The 6km course will take competitors across mudflats near Pahoia Domain, through paddocks and channels, with additional challenges along the way, such as cargo net crawls, a mud slide and try-scoring in the mud.
The long course is open to teams of three as well as individuals, while a 3km version is open to under-16 athletes, making it the ideal challenge for the whole family.
For more information or to enter, visit http://www.taurangamudchallenge.co.nz.
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Nora( left) and Millie Ashby try out the Tauranga Boys’ College Mud Challenge course near Pahoia.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Delight as Tekapo course delivers

 

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tekapo White Water Trust chairman Alan Hoffman and Olympic silver medalist Luuka Jones, after Jones collected her ninth national K1 title at the New Zealand canoe slalom championships in Tekapo over Easter. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Alan Hoffman could’ve been excused some chest-thumping and strutting as he watched New Zealand’s top kayakers take on the Tekapo White Water Course during the national championships over Easter.
Instead, as paddler after paddler came past raving about the upgraded venue, Hoffman – known widely by his nickname ‘Sarge’ – just smiled broadly, already plotting further changes to the course that is rapidly becoming world-class.
As the chairman of the Tekapo White Water Trust, Hoffman has been a driving force behind improvements to the venue, which was boosted late last with grants from the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury and Aorangi Trust to install high-tech timing equipment.
“It’s just taken it up another level,” Hoffman explained. “Before we had people with hand-held stop watches timing people but now we can track paddlers all the way down the course and show their results live on the internet. It’s pretty exciting to see the changes, especially after all the work that has gone into the facility.”
Olympic silver medalist Luuka Jones was so impressed, she’s agreed to become an ambassador for the venue, which operates around 30 times a year from controlled releases out of Lake Tekapo.
“I just love everything about it,” Jones said. “We’re out in the wilderness, the water’s a beautiful colour and the course itself is amazing. I also love the story behind the course as well – it’s been built out of a love for the sport and a lot of hard work from the locals.”
Jones collected her ninth New Zealand K1 title over the weekend, although the technical nature of Tekapo also bared its teeth for her, as she missed a gate in the C1 final and dropped to fifth.
Fellow Olympian Mike Dawson was equally as inspired, delighted to see the Hoffman’s reaction as much as the positive changes to the venue.
“This is his baby and his dream and I just saw his face when everyone rolled into town for nationals and he was just so excited,” Dawson said. “It’s really awesome being here for him – we don’t often get to come and race in Tekapo so it’s really exciting for me to come and check it out, plus it’s also in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, right down by Mount Cook.”
Hoffman was delighted to see South Island paddler Finn Butcher (Alexandra) come through and take the K1 men’s title, posting a video on social media with hilarious commentary throughout his final run.
Butcher, for his part, felt like he was paying homage to the course and its creator with his title win.
“I love paddling in Tekapo – it has to be my favourite course in New Zealand,” Butcher said. “I’ve been coming here since I was 12 and have loved seeing all the changes the team have made here over the years. The stuff Sarge has done to it has made it world-class, with the timing gates meaning we can now hold top events here. There’s also something about being able to race in the middle of the McKenzie Country as well – it’s just such a beautiful part of the country and it’s also not too far from home.”
The course is owned by White Water New Zealand and the trust’s role is to maintain, improve and promote the course and canoe, kayak and white water sport by providing a high quality venue for athletes, white water enthusiasts and the public to enjoy.

 

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tekapo White Water Trust chairman Alan Hoffman beside the Tekapo course during the New Zealand canoe slalom championships over Easter. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Multisport guru relishes new challenge

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Coast to Coast legend Steve Gurney competing at the New Zealand canoe slalom championships at Tekapo over the weekend. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Steve Gurney has spent more time paddling whitewater than some folk have spent breathing but the 54-year-old was relishing becoming a river rookie over Easter.
With nine Coast to coast titles and an array of extraordinary adventure races behind him, the Queenstown-based legend had a weekend out of his comfort zone, competing at the New Zealand canoe slalom championships in Tekapo for the first time.
And despite some middling results – he missed a gate in his first run and rolled in his second – he came away delighted at his experience in the burgeoning sport.
“I used to do a little bit of slalom in my university days, before I got seduced by the dark side of long-boat racing and the Coast to Coast, but things have changed a lot since then so my old boat just did not cut it when I turned up at a slalom event at Tekapo last year,” Gurney explained. “It looked pretty fun though and I was getting a bit bored with the long endurance paddling, plus living in Queenstown means I’m surrounded by rivers and great whitewater paddling, so I bought a second-hand modern slalom boat in November and I’m giving it a go – with disastrous results so far!”
Laughing that “things can only get better from here!”, Gurney has flung himself into his new sport with typical gusto, hanging eight slalom gates up in trees on the Kawarau River near his home and spending a fortnight trying to develop a six-pack, getting his core in shape.
“The major difference is the endurance – I’m used to paddling for hours and this is all over in three minutes.  That means a whole new muscle usage but what I absolutely love is the skills.  The top paddlers here are just incredible and the people here are really friendly… I’m hoping they can still teach an old dog new tricks.”
Gurney was one of a number of Central Otago paddlers competing at the championships, amid a swelling number of masters.  The sport has enjoyed steady growth recently, helped immeasurably by Luuka Jones’ Olympic silver medal, with Gurney inspired by the young faces he saw both on the river bank and on the water.
“That’s the thing that makes my heart sing and gives me goosebumps – seeing all these young kids here.  I sat around the camp fire with a bunch of 15-year-olds last night and they were just thriving, connecting with nature and paddling rivers. They’re going to grow up to be lovely, lovely adults.”
As for Gurney, he’s targeting a trip to Japan for the next Masters Games, having missed the figurative boat for the Auckland event last year, knowing exactly what he needs to work on.
“I’ve got the endurance – I just need to get the speed and the skills!”

Upsets on final day of nationals

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Central Otago paddler Finn Butcher competing in the men’s K1 at the New Zealand canoe slalom championships at Tekapo over the weekend. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Otago kayaker Finn Butcher collected his second national K1 men’s whitewater slalom title on a day of upsets in sun-soaked Tekapo today.
Olympians Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones had their title hopes ruined by 50sec penalties as the three-day New Zealand championships wrapped up, with Dawson dipping out in the semifinals of the men’s K1 and Jones dropping down in the final of the C1 women for the second year in a row.
Instead, it was Alexandra’s Butcher who came through in the men’s ranks, with Australian-based Kiwi Kelly Travers – whose parents live in Timaru – winning the women’s C1.
Butcher didn’t spend long celebrating – within minutes of crossing the line, he was straight into helping pack the course down with Tekapo stalwart Alan “Sarge” Hoffman.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 12 and I love seeing all the changes the team has made here over the years,” Butcher said.  “The stuff Sarge has done to it has made it world-class and with the new timing gates, it means we can now hold top events here. There’s also something about being able to race in the middle of the McKenzie Country as well – it’s just such a beautiful part of the country and it’s also not too far from home.”
Butcher made a cautious start to his final, after missing gate 6 in his semifinal and having to paddle back around to it. Instead, he built into his run nicely and came home in a time of 102.95secs, adding to the national title he won in 2014. He was 1.71secs ahead of the next fastest paddler, national coach Campbell Walsh, who was racing for Great Britain. Tauranga’s Jack Dangen was the next best Kiwi, 3.11secs adrift, while defending champion Callum Gilbert was third New Zealander and fourth overall.
Dawson, seeking his 10th national title, had a slick semifinal run of 100.86secs, just behind top Australian Lucien Delfour, but both paddlers were judged to have missed the 14th gate, which dropped them out of final contention.
Jones, meanwhile, was more than 19secs quicker than her rivals in the C1 final but also missed the 14th gate, eventually finishing fifth.
Travers clocked 142.89secs, with Great Britain’s Hannah Thomas second and Central Otago’s Lotte Rayner third.
“Sometimes I get tense and stressed before a race but I was just feeling really comfortable, had a good race plan in my head and just wanted to come away happy that I’d had a good run,” Travers said. “It meant I could race without any pressure and it worked out really well.”
Jones, despite battling jet-lag after returning from a training camp in Rio de Janeiro last week, did have the satisfaction of winning her ninth national K1 title yesterday, however, outclassing the rest of the field by 16.82secs.
Jones clocked 109.83secs in the final, including a 2sec touch, with Thomas again second in 126.65 and Otago’s Kensa Randle third in 127.43.
Tauranga’s Ben Gibb was also too strong in the men’s C1 final, with a 113.00sec time leaving him 10.94secs in front of Shaun Higgens, while under-16 paddler Oli Puchner stunned his senior rivals by finishing third in 125.61.

Jones best of kayaking Kiwis

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media ServicesLuuka Jones has finished sixth in a highly-competitive K1 women’s final at the Australian canoe slalom championships in Penrith overnight.
Jones was the only Kiwi to progress to the finals on the second day of competition and her 112.09sec run left her 8.32secs adrift of home-town winner and reigning world champion Jess Fox.
Fox had a convincing win with a clean 103.77sec run, putting her 3.47secs clear of 2017 world championships bronze medallist Ricarda Funk (Germany).
Some of the biggest names in world slalom are contesting the championship at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium and it was the international paddlers who dominated the men’s C1 with Rio 2016 Olympic champion Denis Gargaud Chanut from France taking the win.
Chanut had a clean run and a finishing time of 98.68 that saw him 1.01secs ahead of Rio 2016 silver medallist Matej Benus (Slovakia). Slovenia’s 2014 C2 world champion Luka Bozic finished third.
Jones and fellow Kiwi Kelly Travers have made today’s semifinals of the women’s C1, while Callum Gilbert – who agonisingly missed the New Zealand senior men’s team in a tight selection battle – is the only Kiwi in the men’s K1 semifinals.

Comeback complete for Dangen

 

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga kayaker Jack Dangen on his way to seventh at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland last month. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Jack Dangen retired from kayaking at the tender age of 17 to start a building apprenticeship but two years later, he’s carefully constructed a near-perfect comeback.
The Tauranga K1 paddler has been named in his first New Zealand senior canoe slalom team and will compete at world cup and world championship level this year with the likes of Olympians Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones.
He sealed his selection with a sublime fortnight during the national selection events recently, culminating in a seventh-place at the Oceania championships in Auckland.
Without Jones’ historic Olympic silver medal in 2016, however, Dangen could’ve been lost to the sport.
“I’ve always enjoyed paddling but after I finished school, I realised I needed to get a career and some money behind me so I started building,” the former Tauranga Boys’ College star said. “I had a good time and enjoyed life when I started my course but then I started missing kayaking when I saw other peoples’ results. Luuka getting silver was a big moment as it gave me a lot of encouragement and made me think I could really nail this.”
And nail it he did, after spending a year perfecting his paddling in Tauranga with former French C2 world teams champion Pierre Labarelle, training after work and heading to the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland on weekends. He was the fastest qualifier at the New Zealand Open in Manawatu, then headed off Dawson, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert at the Oceania titles.
The results pushed Gilbert out of the senior team by the slimmest of margins, with Dawson having already pre-qualified because of his superb world championship performance last year.
It came down to Gilbert and his good friend Butcher for the last spot, with Alexandra’s Butcher narrowly getting the nod. After making semifinals in every world cup in 2016, Gilbert is focused on the positives, which include selection in the under-23 world championship squad.
“It was a really exciting selection series, super-close and it came down to the last day, which was awesome,” Gilbert said. “I’m still on the under-23 team and there are likely to be some spots available at a few of the world cups so overall the season won’t be too much different to previous years. I’m just as motivated and driven – if not more – than I was last year and looking forward to another European summer.”
Jones will lead the women’s team, pre-qualifying in both the K1 and C1 categories, with Jane Nicholas joining her in both disciplines and Courtney Williams rounding out the K1 team and Kelly Travers the C1 team for the world cups. Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer and Shaun Higgens have all been selected to race in the men’s C1 for the world cup series.
Dangen, meanwhile, is already back at work and planning for the upcoming season.
“I’ll keep the same goals as I had at the start of the season but will probably go back to a winter training block now, to get fit again and start peaking for Europe,” he explained. “I’ve got to see what the boss says but I’d love to do four or five of the world cups.”
Luckily he’s got his employer on his side; Belco Homes owners Mike and Kathy Bell are keen supporters of canoe slalom, with sons Charlie and Josh just named in the national performance squad.
Dangen – who is of Tuhoe and Ngati Porou extraction – has also had plenty of support from friends, family and the wider canoe slalom strategy; he picks out Tauranga locals MaryAnne Washer, Sue Clarke and Roger and Claire Gilbert – Callum’s parents – for special mention, having got into the sport watching older sister Haylee competing at school.
But his grandfather Clive Dangen is perhaps his biggest fan. Having just turned 84, Clive lives in Papakura in Auckland and has hosted his grandson most weekends, training at Vector Wero, and provided all his airport transfers.
Work commitments mean Dangen will miss the next big international event of the season – this weekend’s Australian Open in Penrith – although there’s still a strong New Zealand contingent attending, amidst some of the strongest fields assembled in the Southern Hemisphere.
The first world cup of the year is in Slovakia in mid-June, with rounds in Poland, Germany, Slovania and Spain to follow, while the world championships will be held in Brazil in September.

New Zealand canoe slalom teams:

World Cups squad:
Men: K1: Mike Dawson, Finn Butcher, Jack Dangen. Reserve: Callum Gilbert. C1: Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer, Shaun Higgens. Reserve: Callum Gilbert.
Women: K1: Luuka Jones, Courtney Williams, Jane Nicholas. Reserve: Kensa Randle. C1: Luuka Jones, Kelly Travers, Jane Nicholas.
World championship squad:
Senior:
Men: K1: Mike Dawson, Finn Butcher, Jack Dangen. C1: Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer.
Women: K1: Luuka Jones, Jane Nicholas, Kensa Randle. C1: Luuka Jones, Kelly Travers.
Under-23:
Men: K1: Jack Dangen, Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert. C1: Patrick Washer, Callum Gilbert, James Thwaite.
Women: K1: Courtney Williams, Kensa Randle, Claudia Paterson. C1: Claudia Paterson.
Junior:
Men: K1: Zac Mutton, Damian Torwick, George Snook. C1: Jack Egan, Charlie Bell, Stewart Bloor.
Women: K1: River Mutton, Casey Hales, Lotte Rayner. C1: Lotte Rayner.

CSNZ National Performance Squad 2018:
Mike Dawson, Jack Dangen, Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert, Zac Mutton, George Snook, Callum Atkin, Damien Torwick, Jack Egan, Alex Hawthorne, Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer, Shaun Higgins, Josh Bell, Stuart Bloor, James Thwaite, Charlie Bell, Oliver Puchner, Luuka Jones, Kensa Randle, Jane Nicholas, Courtney Williams, Claudia Paterson, River Mutton, Casey Hales, Jaimee Wilson, Lotte Rayner, Kelly Travers.

Youth Olympic paddlers picked

 

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Photo by David Hall

Six young kayakers are hoping to continue New Zealand’s proud paddling prowess at Olympic level.
Rotorua’s George Snook and Rivey Mutton, Tauranga’s Kahlia Cullwick, Finn Anderson and Oliver Puchner and Hawke’s Bay’s Henry Hall have been selected for the Youth Olympic Games qualifying event in Spain in April, with a ticket to the October’s Youth Olympics in Argentina at stake.
The paddlers will race both sprint and slalom, with Canoe Slalom New Zealand and Canoe Racing New Zealand joining forces to send the team, with help from the Olympic Solidarity fund.
Like their senior namesakes, the Youth Olympic Games are held every four years, with 28 sports featured on the summer programme. Athletes are aged from 15 to 18 and come from more than 200 nationals around the world. The games are used as a stepping stone for athletes, while also promoting Olympic ideals.
Canoe Slalom New Zealand spokesperson Sue Clarke said the selection of the six paddlers was a way of helping the next Luuka Jones or Lisa Carringtons achieve their Olympic goals.
“Most of these paddlers have come through the intermediate-aged AIMS Games ranks and some of them are already starting to feature at a national agegroup level so this gives them another clear step in the Olympic pathway,” Clarke said.
All nations must attend the qualification event in Barcelona, with spots in the Youth Olympic Games allocated on a continental quota basis.

NZ team:
Girls: K1: Rivey Mutton (Rotorua), Kahlia Cullwick (Mount Maunganui College). C1: Kahlia Cullwick.
Boys: K1: George Snook (Rotorua Lakes High School), Henry Hall (Taradale High School). C1: Finn Anderson (Tauranga Boys’ College), Oliver Puchner (Tauranga Boys’ College).

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Jones showcases vast C1 improvement

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
New Zealand’s Luuka Jones on her way to second in the women’s C1 final at the Oceania canoe slalom championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
In the space of a year, New Zealand canoe slalom star Luuka Jones has gone from a half-drowned, last-placed wreck to an Oceania C1 silver medalist.
Just 15 months after adding the C1 discipline to her arsenal, she’s now within touching distance of the sport’s undisputed queen, Jess Fox, having finished second to the Australian at the Oceania championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today.
Jones was just 2.71secs behind Fox; a far cry from the 2017 final at the same venue when Fox won by a massive 13secs and the Kiwi rolled after missing a gate and finished more than 6mins off the pace once all her time penalties were added up.
“Last year, I nearly drowned in the C1 and was basically just trying to make it to the bottom upright!” Jones lamented. “This year, to come second and to be right in the mix was really good – any race where I’m getting closer to Jess is a good race and I’ve still got a bit of time until the Tokyo Olympics to keep improving in C1 and hopefully not drop off too much in K1.”
Her C1 improvement saw her make a series of world cup finals last year, although she saved her best result for an historic fourth-placing in the K1 at the world championships in France.
Fox picked up her fifth world title in the same race – she now has three C1 world titles and two K1 crowns – and has been a keen follower of her Kiwi rival’s progress.
“Luuka’s really pushing it in C1 and she paddles a C1 a lot like a K1, in that she attacks it a lot more,” Fox said. “I’m a bit more open and try for wider lines to keep my boat speed, whereas she’ll come right in and get right up close to the gate.  She’s an exciting paddler to watch and she had some great results in the world cups last year.”
Fox and Jones both picked up touches in today’s final, with Fox clocking 109.42secs and Jones 112.13, while another Australian, Rosalyn Lawrence, was third in 116.39.
It was a relief for Fox, who missed a gate in yesterday’s K1 final – ironically, so did Jones – and ended up eighth.
“I was disappointed with the K1 but the speed was there – it was just some technical errors that cost me dearly.  I put it behind me and came back well today and put down some good paddling in the C1.”
It was a good day for the Australian team, with Lucien Delfour holding off defending champion Michal Smolen (United States) to win a tight men’s K1 final.
The top six men all posted clean runs, with Delfour’s 88.89sec effort just 0.04secs in front of Smolen, with Mathieu Biazizzo (France) 0.39secs further back.
“I did the Whitewater XL at the end of last year which was super-early in the season but it gave me more time on this course,”  Delfour said.  “It’s one of the hardest courses in the world – it’s not big but it’s so technical. You’ve got to find balance and smooth paddling, which luckily suits me – I try not to paddle too hard, otherwise you just waste energy.”
The fairytale finish was nearly provided by Tauranga’s Jack Dangen, the only New Zealander to make the final.
The 19-year-old has only come back into the sport after having a year off to start his building apprenticeship but posted the fastest qualifying time at last week’s New Zealand Open and backed it up in style this week, finishing seventh.  It could’ve been even better too, picking up a touch on gate 15 which dropped him back a spot and cost him momentum.
“I had a really good first run last week and tipped over some of the top guys so I knew that I could do it,” Dangen said. “I’ve been going pretty fast in training, though there’s a difference between going fast in training and laying it down in a race. I can nail moves way better on the river but the next step is taking it onto the course, at a more consistent level.”
He’ll now wait to see whether he’s made the New Zealand senior team, which will be confirmed this week to compete in world cups and world championships later on in the year.
Mistakes kept New Zealand’s other leading paddlers out of the final, with Mike Dawson, Zack Mutton, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert filling spots 13-16 after the semifinals.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Australian Lucien Delfour. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Results:
Women’s C1: Jessica Fox (Australia) 109.42, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 112.13 2, Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 116.39 3, Noemie Fox (Australia) 120.17 4, Sage Donnelly (United States) 123.95 5, Kelly Travers (New Zealand) 131.99 6, Kate Eeckhardt (Australia) 135.27 7, Alison Borrows (Australia) 142.93 8, Claire Jacquet (France) 164.15 9, Martina Wegman (Netherlands) 261.18 10.
Men’s K1: Lucien Delfour (Australia) 88.89 1, Michal Smolen (United States) 88.93 2, Mathieu Biazizzo (France) 89.32 3, Daniel Watkins (Australia) 89.84 4, Ondrej Tunka (Czech Republic) 90.08 5, Titouan Dupras (France) 93.26 6, Jack Dangen (New Zealand) 93.67 7,
Yves Prigent (France) 94.60 8, Timothy Anderson (Australia) 94.92 9, Benjamin Pope (Australia) 96.64 10.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Australian Jess Fox on her way to victory in the women’s C1 final at the Oceania canoe slalom championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media