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
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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

Whitewater course tests paddlers

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
French paddler Kilian Foulon on his way to victory in the Oceania canoe slalom men’s C1 final at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
International paddlers dominated the first finals at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today, though the constantly-improving course also won its fair share of plaudits.
Katerina Kudejova (Czech Republic) took out the women’s K1 title at Vector Wero Whitewater Park, with Olympic medalists Jess Fox (Australia) and Luuka Jones (New Zealand) both missing gates to ruin their chances..
Frenchman Kilian Foulon also stayed out of trouble on the tricky artificial rapids to win the men’s C1 crown, despite Australians Daniel Watkins and Brodie Crawford and American Casey Eichfeld all recording faster raw times.
“It wasn’t necessary to go hard but it was best to paddle smooth, rather than try to go too fast,” 28-year-old Kudejova explained.  “People say there are so many stoppers on the course but I like it – it’s no problem for me.”
Her 100.66sec time was clear of touches, as was second-placed Australian Rosalyn Lawrence, who finished just 0.82secs behind Kudejova and nearly a second in front of Camille Prigent (France).
Lawrence has paddled the course as much as any of the internationals, having competed in last year’s Oceania titles, as well as both editions of the Whitewater XL event.
She’s seen vast improvements in the Wero course over the last 18 months and was delighted to escape without touches.
“It’s hard to have a clean run at Wero – it’s a tricky course and it can be quite unpredictable,” Lawrence said.  “There are more vertical walls here, which makes it surge a little bit, but it’s a much nicer course than last year.  It just takes time and tweaking and the courses naturally get better.  I really enjoyed in this year.”
Fox posted the fastest time of the day – a raw time of 96.53 – but missed gate 6 altogether and picked up two late touches as well.  Jones was also quick but missed gate 13.
It was a similar story in the men’s C1, where Foulon’s conservative approach paid dividends, as the only paddler in the final not to earn a penalty.
“I had a bad run in the semifinal with a couple of touches but I was really pleased with the final,” the Frenchman said.  “It maybe wasn’t the fastest time but it was clean.  The course isn’t super-hard but the rapids can be hard to manage so not picking up penalties was the key.”
His time of 97.86 was just 0.39 in front of Watkins, who picked up two touches, as did Eichfeld who was just 0.01secs behind third-placed Crawford in 99.60.
The best of the Kiwis was Ben Gibb in seventh, just 6.62secs off the pace, with Callum Gilbert eighth and Patrick Washer 10th.
Tomorrow’s racing sees semifinals and finals for both the men’s K1 and the women’s C1, alongside the first Oceania boatercross (extreme slalom) championships, which features four boats racing down the course at once.
Results:
Women’s K1 final:
Katerina Kudejova (Czech Republic) 100.66 1, Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 101.48 2, Camille Prigent (France) 102.39 3, Martina Wegman (Holland) 106.22 4, Noemie Fox (Australia) 108.81 5, Kate Eckhardt 109.11 6, Alison Borrows (Australia)  114.61 7, Jessica Fox (Australia) 150.53 8, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 152.83 9, Sage Donnelly (United States) 168.59 10.
Men’s C1 final:
Kilian Foulon (France) 97.86 1, Daniel Watkins (Australia) 98.25 2, Brodie Crawford (Australia) 99.59 3, Casey Eichfeld (United States) 99.60 4, Lukas Rohan (Czech Republic) 101.41 5, Ian Borrows (Australia) 101.68 6, Benjamin Gibb (New Zealand) 104.48 7, Callum Gilbert (New Zealand) 107.36 8, Ethan Hodson (Australia) 109.50 9, Patrick Washer (New Zealand) 119.99 10.

Gilbert shines at Oceania champs

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga’s Callum Gilbert on his way to topping men’s K1 qualifying at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Callum Gilbert took down the world champion and a host of other world-class kayakers at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today but he was more concerned about where it puts him in the New Zealand frame.
The 22-year-old from Tauranga was the top qualifier in the men’s K1 on the first day of racing at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park, posting a faultless run of 84.37secs to edge top Australian Lucien Delfour by 0.56secs.  Mathieu Biazizzo (France) was third in 85.48, Kiwi Olympian Mike Dawson fourth in 85.62 while reigning world champion Ondrej Tunka (Czech Republic) was fifth, picking up a 2sec penalty touch to finish in 86.64.
Gilbert burst onto the world cup scene two years ago, making the semifinals at every round he attended, but endured a frustrating year last year.
“We did a lot of thinking about what could be going on because every run seemed to be the same story but in the end, we decided not to over-analyse things too much, put it down to experience and just get on with it,” he explained. “It’s been a long season of tough runs and it was nice to finally have a good one.”
While Dawson’s world championship performance (he finished seventh) means he’s already pre-selected for the international season, Gilbert is locked in a battle with fellow under-23 paddlers Finn Butcher, Alex Hawthorne, Zack Mutton and Jack Dangen for national team selection.
“Our selections are quite tough this year – usually in the past we’d have a pretty good idea of who’d be in there but this year is still completely up in the air.  It makes it very excited racing and it’s good to see where New Zealand is heading.”
Adding to the burgeoning New Zealand ranks was an impressive effort from Rotorua 14-year-old George Snook, who made in through to the semifinals with a clean 98.83 time.
In the women’s racing, Luuka Jones had the second-fastest raw time in K1 qualifying, though she picked up two 2sec penalties to drop her back to third in 98.40secs, behind Australian Rosalyn Lawrence (95.63) and France’s Camille Prigent (96.82).   World champion Jess Fox (Australia) was fourth, also picking up a penalty but breaking the minute-barrier with a 99.o00sec effort.
Jones also impressed in the women’s C1, qualifying second, although Fox showed why she’s won three world championships in the kneeling, single-bladed discipline by posting a time more than 7secs faster than the talented New Zealander.  Fox’s younger sister Noemie was third-fastest, with Kiwis Jane Nicholas and Kelly Travers sixth and seventh respectively.
International paddlers dominated the men’s C1 qualifying, with Casey Eichfeld (United States) recording 92.76secs, a second quicker than Frenchman Kilian Foulon, with Australians Ian Borrows and Brodie Crawford and Czech paddler Lukas Rohan rounding out the top-five. Ben Gibb was the only Kiwi in the top-10, qualifying sixth-fastest with a clear run of 99.90secs, although compatriot Patrick Washer went nearly a second faster in winning the repechage round.
Tomorrow’s schedule sees semifinals and finals for both the women’s K1 and the men’s C1, with the men’s K1 and the women’s C1 finishing on Monday, alongside the first Oceania boatercross (extreme slalom) championships, which features four boats racing down the course at once.