Confidence boost for top Kiwi paddlers

Tauranga kayaker Mike Dawson has made a brilliant start to the world cup canoe slalom series in Europe, with a top-10 finish in Prague.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga kayaker Mike Dawson has made a brilliant start to the world cup canoe slalom series in Europe, with a top-10 finish in Prague. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

New Zealand’s top canoe slalom paddlers have taken a big dose of confidence from the first world cup of the season, as they eye Olympic qualification in less than three months.
Mike Dawson made just his third world cup final in Prague, finishing ninth, while fellow Bay of Plenty paddler Luuka Jones dipped out in the heats but was still delighted with her raw times.
Dawson was the fastest paddler in the heats and comfortably progressed through the semifinals.  He missed a gate in the final, putting him out of the running, but equaled his best-ever finish at a world cup.
“These races are really good indicators to see where we’re at, building into the season and into the world championships in London in September, so I was pretty excited to win the qualification and start in the final spot in the semifinals and deliver there,” Dawson said. “In the final, I slipped off-line and picked up a few more time penalties and it obviously wasn’t my day, but it’s always good to come to the first world cup and have a really good run straight off the bat. I’m pretty excited about the rest of the season.”
Dawson’s missed gate meant he missed out on being caught up in some of the finals drama, with Great Britain’s Joseph Clarke making the run of his life to occupy top spot but subsequently disqualified due to an under-weight boat.  The ICF’s limit is 8kg, with Clarke’s boat weighing in at 7.98kg.
It gave under-23 world champion and local Czech paddler Jiri Prskavec top honors, with 2014 world champion Boris Neveu (France) just over half a second behind the rising Czech star.
Jones, meanwhile, didn’t progress through to the semifinals, missing gates in both her heat runs, although her raw time in her second run would’ve been good enough for second-fastest qualifier.
“It was disappointing not to be racing the semifinals as I liked the look of the course but that’s the nature of the sport and being a couple of inches off line in one gate proved really costly,” Jones said.  “I’ve got some really good things to take away though – two consistent solid runs with my times in the mix with the top K1 women.”
Jones will compete in the second world cup round in Poland this week, while Dawson will skip this week and focus on the third world cup in Slovakia next week.  His spot in the men’s K1 this week will be taken by rising Tauranga paddler Jack Dangen.

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