Top New Zealand kayaker Luuka Jones stormed into the semifinals of the final canoe slalom world cup of the season in France overnight, notching the fourth-fastest time overall.
The 24-year-old Bay of Plenty paddler was off the pace in her first run, clocking 102.23secs through the 25 gates on the tough course in Pau and missing the top-20 who automatically qualified for the K1 semifinals by just one spot.
But she made amends in her second run with a 95.73sec effort, easily cementing a spot in the top-30 for tonight’s semifinals.
“I was a bit annoyed at missing out on on the first run but it was a good feeling to know I’m capable of doing that sort of time in the second run,” Jones said. “The semifinal course is tricky but I’m looking forward to it.”
Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle was the fastest overall in the heats, recording 94.11, with Spain’s Maialen Chourraut 0.71secs back and Marie-Zelia Lafont (France) third. But Jones’ second-round time was quicker than that of Australian prodigy Jessica Fox, who laid down a 96.54 time in her first run.
This is the last chance for paddlers to get serious competition before next month’s world championships in London, where spots at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics will be at stake.
Another to impress was New Zealand-raised Cook Islands Olympian Ella Nicholas, who grabbed her best-ever world cup finish, finishing 34th and just missing the semifinals by 1.39secs. Her younger sister Jane, representing New Zealand, had a similar raw score but missed a gate early in her run to cop a 50sec time penalty.
Meanwhile, another Kiwi Kelly Travers finished 18th overall in the women’s C1 (canoe) semifinals, in her first appearance in the top-20 at just her second world cup. Spain’s Nuria Vilarrubla won the C1 with a 124.75sec final run, edging Fox by 4.29secs.