After a whirlwind three months, Kiwi kayaker Mike Dawson is back in slalom mode as he eyes up the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Dawson and fellow New Zealand star Luuka Jones are racing the Aquece Rio test event this week in the Brazilian city, the first time the newly-built whitewater slalom course has been used in competition.
The pair qualified K1 boats for Rio at the world championships in London in September, before Dawson embarked on a hectic schedule of extreme races in Austria and an historic paddling expedition to Angola.
This week’s event marks the start of a new season, however, with the 29-year-old firmly focused on his second Olympics.
“I love getting out on the wild rivers on the world but there won’t be any opportunity for that in the next 10 months, so it was good I got that out of my system,” Dawson said. “I am looking forward to preparing and putting myself in the best position leading into the Games. I came back from Angola so refreshed and excited for the season ahead and had some of the best training I’ve ever had over the past month in Rotorua – it’s humbling to be able to get the opportunity to go to Rio and begin learning the whitewater on the course so early in the cycle.”
Jones, meanwhile, is eyeing up her third Olympics next year, provided she comes through the New Zealand selection races unscathed early next year. She’s taken a different route, heading back to her British base in Nottingham to prepare for Rio.
Having arrived in Brazil earlier this week, she’s been relishing the scenic splendor of the new course.
“We’re sitting on the water surrounded by beautiful mountains and to be paddling on the course that’s going to be used for the Olympic Games next year is pretty amazing,” Jones said.
Canoe slalom at the 2016 Olympics will take place from August 7-11 at the purpose-built Olympic Whitewater Stadium, nestled between a set of hills at the Deodoro X-Park cluster, with its whitewater course fed by an artificial lake.
Both Jones and Dawson have been heavily supported by High Performance Sport New Zealand through individual campaign funding and Dawson said that has made a significant difference.
“The 2015 season was an incredible one for me, making huge progress technically, physically and mentally and learning vital lessons that I can put into action to prepare for next year. This is an awesome opportunity to get a chance to explore Rio, get familiar with the surroundings over there and most importantly spend three weeks training on the Olympic course, which will be the only opportunity we get before the Olympics start.”
The Aquece Rio test event starts on Friday (NZ time).
See Luuka Jones paddling the Rio course here