They didn’t have it all their way but three New Zealand kayakers have made the semifinals at canoe slalom’s under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, overnight.
Rotorua’s Zack Mutton had an eventful day, missing a gate in the first heat of the K1 juniors but storming back in his second run to post the fastest time in the repechage.
His clean 90.13sec second round time was second only to Czech paddler Tomas Zima, who clocked 88.04 to lead qualifying.
“I had a good first run and thought it went pretty well but when I got to the bottom, I saw I’d picked up a 50,” Mutton explained. “It was a bit of a surprise because I thought I’d left myself enough but I left it up to the judges. My second run was heaps better – I felt really good and managed to get the second-fastest time overall, so I’m really looking forward to the semis to see how I go.”
Without the missed gate – and subsequent 50sec penalty – his first run would’ve been good enough for fifth, though the judges’ call dropped him back to 50th, behind fellow Kiwi Callum Aitken (42nd). Aitken just missed qualifying in his second run, finishing 14th, while Damian Torwick agonisingly missed the final gate in both his runs to drop out of contention.
There was also plenty of drama for under-23 paddlers Finn Butcher (Alexandra) and Tauranga’s Callum Gilbert, who both picked penalties in their first run but were comfortably inside the top-30 that automatically qualified for Friday’s semifinals.
Gilbert clocked 93.92secs, with one 2sec penalty for a touch on gate 15, to qualify in 21st, while Butcher was two places further back after hitting gate 12 and finishing in 94.34.
Butcher tweaked his pre-race routine for the run and didn’t let the touch distract him.
“I knew there was a lot of mistakes happening and that there was potential to still make it through after a couple of pretty large time losses so I kept fighting and it ended up well,” Butcher said. “The course they set today was quite hard for a heats course – it was more something I’d expect for a finals day – so it was pretty satisfying to make it through.”
France’s Mathieu Desnos was the fastest qualifier in 84.06, ahead of Germany’s Stefan Hengst in 84.56, with another Frenchman, Pol Oulhen, third in 86.13. The third under-23 Kiwi, Alex Hawthorne, missed a gate in his first run but raced clean in the repechage, finishing 14th and missing the semifinals by just 1sec.
Tonight’s racing sees the New Zealand women in action for their first heats, with Courtney Williams and Kensa Randle contesting the under-23 division and Claudia Paterson, Annie Wardle and Casey Hales the juniors.