Last chance for kayakers to shine

Photo by Jamie TroughtonDscribe Media Services
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Olympic canoe slalom paddler Luuka Jones will be looking for improvements in her final World Cup of the season, before heading to Rio. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Kiwi kayakers Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones will have their final pre-Olympic hit-outs this weekend at the third World Cup of the season in France.

The Rio-bound K1 pair are part of a nine-strong New Zealand canoe slalom team competing at the Pau Pyrénées Whitewater Stadium from tomorrow, with half the team also preparing for the junior and under-23 world championships in Poland next month.

Dawson, who skipped last week’s second World Cup in Spain, wants to gauge himself against his Olympic rivals.

“Most of the Olympic boats will be racing here in Pau so it will give us a good chance to see how we’re standing against all the competition,” Dawson explained. “It’s a pretty wicked chance to test everything, to work together with the  team and get everything finalised before we head on down to Rio.”

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New Zealand canoe slalom star Mike Dawson. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Dawson’s last competitive outing was disappointing – he missed the semifinals at the first World Cup in Italy on a course that suited him, watching instead as young teammates Callum Gilbert and Finn Butcher produced their best results at that level.

Gilbert also made the top-40 in Spain and was joined by Jones, who qualified seventh-fastest but then found herself offline in the semifinal to finish 21st.

“After a mixed race in Seu, I’ve definitely got some good learnings to take into Pau,” Jones said. “It’s another good opportunity to practice race routines and, like Seu, it will be a really stacked field. Pau is a great place to paddle and always puts on a really good race – the water here is big and fast and I definitely prefer it.”

Jones will be joined by Jane Nicholas and Anna Higgins in the K1 division, with Nicholas also racing a C1 canoe boat alongside Kelly Travers, while Ben Gibb and Patrick Washer will tackle the C1 men’s division.

Gilbert, Butcher, Travers, Higgins and Washer are all heading on to the junior worlds in Krakow from July 12-17.

Racing in Pau starts Friday night (NZ time).

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