Kiwi kayakers back after break

Luuka Jones has made a breakthrough in the C1 division on the ICF World Cup series this year. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media


After a two-month hiatus, New Zealand’s best canoe slalom paddlers are back in action this week, at the fourth ICF World Cup in Ivrea, Italy.
Olympic K1 silver medalist Luuka Jones will be looking to build on her last result at that level; a fourth-placed finish in the Augsburg round in Germany paddling her C1 boat.
It’s the first time Jones has raced at the Ivrea course, where she’ll race both K1 and C1 classes, as will teammate Jane Nicholas, with Courtney Williams joining them in the K1 division.
Shaun Higgins and Ben Gibb will compete in the C1 men’s heats, with Mike Dawson, Callum Gibb and Finn Butcher entered in the K1. Dawson and Butcher will also race the new four-boat extreme slalom, with Dawson already picking up gold and bronze medals this season.
Series leaders Ricarda Funk heads into Ivrea as the form paddler in women’s K1, having dominated the last two World Cups with big wins in Augsburg and Markkleeberg, but can expect strong challenges from a field that includes Olympic silver and bronze medallists Jones and Australia’s Jess Fox.
Fellow German Sebastian Schubert has been rewarded for consistency this season. Although he is yet to win a World Cup, he finished second in Markkleeberg, third in Prague and fourth in Augsburg.
He can expect a strong challenge from leading local hope, Giovanni De Gennaro, a winner at Ivrea previously and gold medallist from Markkleeberg this year, and from Czech Vit Prindis, who won the opening two World Cups in Prague and Augsburg but failed to make the final in Markkleeberg.
and Sideris Tasiadis (all from Germany) will lead will be out to defend their series leads when the 2017 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup program heads to Ivrea, Italy, this coming weekend.
Germany’s Marek Tasiadis won the opening World Cup gold in the C1 in Prague, and followed up with seconds in Augsburg and Markkleeberg to take a stranglehold on the competition, but will have to stare down challenges from Slovakian pair Michal Martikan and Matej Benus, winners in Markkleeberg and Augsburg respectively.
After missing the C1 final in Prague because of a missed gate penalty, Fox has bounced back to claim victory at both Augsburg and Markkleeberg, and with the absence of Great Britian pair Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods this weekend, will see a chance to tighten her grip on the standings.
The Ivrea round, which starts on Friday, is followed next week by the World Cup final in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain, ahead of next month’s world championships in France.

NZ team:
C1: Jane Nicholas, Luuka Jones
K1: Courtney Williams, Jane Nicholas, Luuka Jones
K1: Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert, Mike Dawson
C1: Shaun Higgins, Ben Gibb,



Good finish for NZ team boats

Photo courtesy of Pavol Uhrin/

New Zealand’s campaign at canoe slalom’s under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, ended in style with a classy finish in the under-23 team boat final.
Alex Hawthorne, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert finished seventh, one spot ahead of the host nation, after a 114.81sec run, which featured just one penalty touch and left them only 9.53secs adrift of winners Germany.
Under the team competition, three paddlers from each nation have to complete the course, with the time taken from when the final paddler crosses the line. Even if just one paddler touches or misses a gate, the entire team is penalised.
The Kiwis didn’t have it all their own way, with Gilbert rolling near the top but they recovered superbly.
“It definitely didn’t go to plan at the top but I ended up having a quick individual run trying to catch the others!” Gilbert laughed. “It was heaps of fun and a great way to finish the race, with not a bad placing either.”
Butcher joked that his teammate merely got distracted, looking for local aquatic life, but the trio had adapted well and shown they were a tight unit.
“It’s a different mental state for teams – you have to deliver individually and also be able to think about what position in the gate is best for the next person coming in.”
The K1 junior men’s team finished 10th in their final, matched by the under-23 and junior women’s teams, while the junior men’s C1 team was ninth and the under-23 C1 team 16th.
Germany dominated the teams competition, winning four out of a possible eight titles, while the Czech Republic was the most successful nation for the entire championships, winning the Nations Cup ahead of host nation, Slovakia, with Germany third.

Top-20 for Kiwi paddler at worlds

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Claudia Paterson finished 19th in the junior K1 at the world junior championships in Slovakia. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Tauranga kayaker Claudia Paterson secured a top-20 finish at canoe slalom’s under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, overnight.

The 18-year-old Bethlehem College paddler bowed out in the semifinals of the junior K1 division, with a flurry of gate touches ending her hopes of progressing to the top-10 final.
But she wasn’t alone, as the Čunovo Water Sports Centre bared its teeth. Paterson’s 137.90sec run – including 10secs’ worth of penalties – was still good enough for 19th in the 30-boat semifinals.

“I definitely wish I gave myself a little more room in the gates today,” she lamented. “The course was tricky and that was seen in the number of girls making big mistakes on the river – I didn’t have an amazing run today but overall I’m pretty happy with a top-20 finish. For my first time at a big competition, and therefore my first time with real pressure, I’m proud of the runs I laid down.”

Czech Antonie Galuskova won the junior K1 final in a time of 104.27, with Slovakia’s Eliska Mintalova second in 105.15, and another Czech, Lucie Nesnidalova third in 105.72.

Meanwhile, Central Otago’s Kensa Randle had a run to forget in her under-23 semifinal, finishing 30th after coming unstuck in the first section and missing gate 9. She recovered well in the last third of her run to finish in 188.39.

Australia’s Jessica Fox bounced back from heartbreak 24 hours earlier to win another gold at her final individual appearance at the agegroup championships, finishing in 101.21, ahead of Brazil’s Ana Satila in 102.69 and Poland’s Klaudia Zwolinska in 103.61.

A day earlier, Fox, a London silver medallist and Rio bronze medallist, was left devastated after a 50-second penalty robbed her of a certain gold medal in the final of the under-23 C1.

The 16-strong New Zealand team will all be in action on the final day, racing the team competition in both K1 and C1.

Kiwi paddler eighth at world champs

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Zack Mutton has equalled New Zealand’s best-ever K1 finish at a junior world championship. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Rotorua kayaker Zack Mutton has equalled New Zealand’s best-ever individual result at a junior canoe slalom world championship, finishing eighth in the K1 final in Bratislava, Slovakia, overnight.

But it could’ve been so much better, with his raw time good enough for a bronze medal but two penalty touches, on the 16th and 22nd gates, proving the killer.

It meant he clocked 99.34secs, 7.16secs behind winning Austria’s Felix Oschmautz, with Czechs Tomas Zima and Jan Barta filling the minor placings.

“It was a very difficult course and the run didn’t really go to plan – it was a little bit off the whole way,” Mutton said. “I was super-stoked just to be there though. There was a lot of pressure in the semifinal but I put down a good run and managed to get through, so everything from then on was a bonus.”

Double Olympian Mike Dawson’s 10th in 2004 and Callum Gilbert’s eight in 2014 are the only other two times a Kiwi has made a junior world championship K1 final and Mutton was delighted to join the vaunted pair, who are both classy senior paddlers now. And the Okere Falls 17-year-old still has one more year in the junior ranks, which gave him plenty of confidence.

“Making the final has been a goal for a very long time now so I’m happy to complete that and I couldn’t stop smiling on the start line. I guess there’s disappointment I wasn’t able to perform how I wanted to but I’ve still got next year. And I know I’m good enough to compete with these guys now too.”

Emphasising how tough the course was, no paddler went clean in the final, while Mutton was one of only three non-European paddlers, heading off United States duo Tyler Smith and Joshua Joseph.

The European dominance continued in the under-23 division too, where Gilbert and Finn Butcher both exited in the semifinals after missing gates and incurring 50sec penalties.
Butcher’s 93.07 raw time would’ve qualified him in sixth but the 56secs’ worth of penalties dropped him 29 places back to 35th, two spots behind Gilbert.

“Once again, I was feeling really good in the boat but I hit gate 7 with the very front of my boat and it swung around me,” Butcher lamented. “It was an unlucky swing of the pole but I wasn’t quite accurate enough on getting through the poles in the first place. Despite that, I actually had quite a fun run, the course was flowing a lot more than the heats and with a couple of spins in it, was a bit trickier.”

Gilbert came unstuck on gate 11 and added a touch on gate 15 to pick up 52secs in penalties.

“Gate 11 was a tight upstream and I thought I was in but after looking at the video, it’s clear I was too tight,” Gilbert said. “Other than that and another small mistake, the run was pretty good!”

Slovakia’s Jakub Grigar landed an emotional home-town win, with the defending under-23 world champion and two-time world junior champion smashing the under-23 final in 89.86secs, almost two seconds clear of Austria’s Mario Leitner in 91.89, with France’s Mathieu Desnos third in 93.51.

Butcher and Gilbert will now return home to prepare for September’s senior world championships in France and the rest of the ICF World Cup series.

“It’s still early in the season and the big goal is at the end – there’s so much to learn from this race and work on at home to prepare for the worlds in Pau,” Butcher said.

Their junior world championship campaigns aren’t quite over yet, meanwhile, with team boat racing tomorrow night, while tonight they’ll be cheering on K1 teammates Claudia Paterson (junior) and Kensa Randle (under-23) in their respective semifinals.

Proud day for plucky Tauranga paddler

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga kayaker Claudia Paterson has overcome a serious shoulder injury to reach the semifinals of the world junior canoe slalom championships. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

A year ago, Tauranga kayaker Claudia Paterson sat miserably on her couch, her arm in a sling and her dreams of competing on the world stage as busted as her shoulder.

Now the 18-year-old Bethlehem College paddler has found the ultimate redemption, qualifying for the K1 semifinals at canoe slalom’s under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, overnight.

It continued a remarkable campaign for the New Zealand team; Paterson joined fellow Kiwi Kensa Randle, who qualified in the under-23 ranks, and Callum Gilbert, Finn Butcher and Zack Mutton, who made it through the previous day.

For Paterson, however, there was also the immense satisfaction of knowing just how far she’d come. Three weeks out from last year’s championship, she dislocated her shoulder while paddling in France, forcing her home where surgery awaited. As her teammates competed, she could only sit, dejected and dispirited, following their progress online.

“I was close to calling quits on the whole kayaking thing but I realised I missed kayaking way too much, so I decided to give it one last shot and see if I could get to the 2017 junior worlds,” Paterson explained. “It was my last chance to compete as a junior.”

She spent six months out of her boat entirely, only allowed back on moving water in February. From then on, small steps became larger; she rebuilt her strength, regained her feel of the water, took out the national secondary school title and finished third in the open nationals, and only then set to work on her biggest obstacle.

“I knew the surgery reduced my chances of re-dislocation and I knew I was above the strength level I had prior to the accident but psychologically, I couldn’t get on whitewater without thinking ‘is this the session it’s going to dislocate?’. Time is the greatest healer of confidence, which I didn’t have a lot of before I headed to Europe.”

Which made her first run overnight even more remarkable; despite bundles of nerves and a 2sec touch on the penultimate gate, she clocked 118.65secs for her first run and qualified more than 2secs inside the top-20 automatically through to the semifinals. Paterson paid tribute to Canoe Slalom New Zealand, who showed faith in her and gave her dispensation to miss selection events during her recovery.

“To not only make it to the junior worlds but to then qualify for the semifinal off my first run – I’m pretty happy right now! I’m so happy I managed to put it together and do such a solid run under so much pressure – it’s so much more than I hoped for. The last 12 months have been hard but I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m planning to keep on going.”

Czech 16-year-old Antonie Galuskova was the quickest qualifier in the women’s junior K1, while Paterson’s fellow Kiwis Casey Hales and Annie Wardle had their moments on the tough course, with Hales 34th in her first run and Wardle 16th in the repechage, where the top-10 progressed through.

That was the route Randle was forced to take, meanwhile, after missing gate 22 in her first run and dropping to 45th with a 50sec penalty,  behind another Kiwi Courtney Williams, who was 33rd.

Randle, a product of the strong Central Otago paddling factory now living in Auckland, needed something special in her second run and duly delivered, posting the sixth-fastest time of 115.26, despite two touches.

“I struggled on today’s course – in my first run I was fighting the whole way down but luckily In my second run, I could compose myself and pull out a run that was good enough to qualify,” Randle said. “I’m looking forward to the semis on Saturday – the course looks harder but I’m always up for a challenge.”

A missed gate cost Williams, however, as she dropped to 23rd, while Austria’s Lisa Leitner was the top under-23 qualifier with her own story of redemption. She was disqualified at the European Championships for an underweight boat and the Austrian Federation then disqualified her for two World Cups but she stormed home in 91.88 in her first run, more than four seconds quicker than multiple world champion, Jessica Fox, in 96.21, with Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin third in 97.61.

Gilbert, Butcher and Mutton are all back in action for tonight’s semifinals, with Tauranga’s Gilbert and Alexandra’s Butcher in the under-23 division and Rotorua’s Mutton chasing junior glory.

Three Kiwi paddlers progress


Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Okere Falls paddler Zack Mutton. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services


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.

Tough start for C1 paddlers

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga’s Josh Bell. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Josh Bell was the best of the New Zealand contingent on a tough first day of the canoe slalom under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia overnight.

Bell was one of six New Zealand C1 paddlers in action and the 18-year-old posted a clear first run of the junior boys heats to lie in 26th spot, 8.36secs off qualifying automatically for the semifinals.

Fellow Kiwi Jack Egan was 31st and Stewart Bloor 38th after the first runs and the trio couldn’t get past the strong European contingent in the repechage second run, with Bell (15th), Bloor (20th) and Egan (26th) all missing the top-10 that progressed.

Czech paddlers dominated the qualifying runs, with Vojtech Heger quickest in 96.45 and teammate Matyas Lhota second in 96.62, ahead of French teenager Alexis Bobon, who was third in 102.12.

It was a similar story in the under-23 division, where New Zealand’s Patrick Washer picked up four touches in his first run, with a 114.28sec effort leaving him 35th and 10.36secs outside the top-20. James Thwaite and Callum Gilbert both missed gates to lie 51st and 52nd respectively.

Washer also picked up two touches in his second run to finish 20th, with Thwaite 24th and Gilbert 31st.

Czech Lukas Rohan qualified fastest for the semifinals in a time of 92.63, more than a second ahead of leading local hope, Marko Mirgorodsky, in 93.70, with another Czech, Vaclav Chaloupka, third in 95.05. Germany’s Florian Breuer, who is hoping to defend his 2016 U23 world title this week, finished fourth.

Gilbert will be back in action tonight as the sixth-ranked paddler in the under-23 K1, with Finn Butcher and Alex Hawthorne also racing, while fourth-ranked Zack Mutton, Damian Torwick and Callum Aitken will all feature in the junior K1 heats.

Strong team set for junior worlds

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga’s Callum Gilbert (left) and Finn Butcher (Alexandra). Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Kayakers Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert will head a 16-strong New Zealand challenge at the canoe slalom under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, beginning tonight.
The K1 pair have been regular ICF World Cup semifinalists over recent season and Alexandra’s Butcher (15th) and Tauranga’s Gilbert (18th) were just single penalties away from making the top-10 final in the under-23 division last year.
They’ll be joined this week by 16-year-old Rotorua paddler Zack Mutton, who grabbed an impressive 19th in the junior semifinals last year, plus under-23 K1 paddlers Alex Hawthorne, Courtney Williams and Kensa Randle, who all have recent World Cup experience. James Thwaite and Patrick Washer will also join Gilbert in racing under-23 C1.
Juniors Callum Aitken and Damian Torwick (men’s K1), Claudia Paterson, Annie Wardle and Casey Hales (women’s K1) and Jack Egan, Josh Bell and Stewart Bloor (men’s C1) complete the team.
They’ll join more than 400 athletes from close to 50 countries, including Olympic medallists and finalists, at the championship.
Heading the honour board is two-time Olympic medallist and multiple world champion, Australia’s Jessica Fox, who is competing at her final under age worlds. Fox is certain to be challenged by British duo Kimberley Woods and Mallory Franklin, Brazil’s Ana Satila and Austria’s Viktoria Wolffhardt, who have all been prominent at this year’s K1 World Cups.
Olympic finalist Jakub Grigar will need hometown support in the under-23 men’s K1 to help him take on a strong field which includes junior world champion Mario Leitner (Austria) and 2016 under-23 champion Ruslan Pestov (Ukraine).
The championships begin tonight with men’s C1 heats.

New Zealand team:
Under-23: K1 men: Callum Gilbert, Alex Hawthorne, Finn Butcher. K1 women: Courtney Williams, Kensa Randle. C1 men: James Thwaite, Patrick Washer, Callum Gilbert.
Junior: K1 men: Callum Aitken, Zack Mutton, Damian Torwick. K1 women: Claudia Paterson, Annie Wardle, Casey Hales. C1 men: Jack Egan, Josh Bell, Stewart Bloor.


Kiwis miss out on slalom semis

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Strong winds and even stronger competition have proved too much for the young New Zealand canoe slalom team on the opening day of the third ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Markkleeberg, Germany.
K1 paddlers Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert came the closest to qualifying for the weekend semifinals with Gilbert just 1.42secs off making the top-30 in his first run, after a clean 96.66sec effort, and Butcher just 1.45secs off making the top-10 in his second run.
The intense competition in the men’s ranks was highlighted with the top-50 paddlers all finishing within 10secs of each other in the first round, including World Cup rookie and the third Kiwi K1 paddler Alex Hawthorne, who produced a sharp 99.10sec effort including 4secs worth of penalties.
Olympic champion Joe Clarke (Great Britain) needed two runs to qualify, while reigning world champion Jiri Prskavec was right on the top-30 cut-off.
Jane Nicholas missed a gate in the second run of her C1, finishing 13th as the top-10 went through, while she and Courtney Williams both enjoyed solid K1 runs, without managing to progress.
Gilbert and Patrick Washer finished 42nd and 50th in the their C1 first runs, then both missed gates in the repechage round.
Most of the team will now start preparing for the under-23 world championships in Slovakia later this month.

Older head just what the doctor ordered


Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Jane Nicholas is juggling a medical career with twin ambitions in K1 and C1 on the ICF World Cup circuit. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

At 24, Jane Nicholas has no right to be called a veteran – but all of a sudden, she’s the old head in the New Zealand canoe slalom team tackling the third ICF World Cup of the season in Markkleeberg, Germany, this weekend.
With Olympians Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones skipping this round of the series, after impressive performances in the first two World Cups, Nicholas has assumed the elder statesman role. She joins a clutch of under-23 athletes, including 22-year-old Finn Butcher, 21-year-old Callum Gilbert, 20-year-old Alex Hawthorne and 19-year-olds Courtney Williams and Patrick Washer in the six-strong team.
Like Gilbert, Nicholas will compete in both C1 and K1 classes this weekend, with women’s C1 having recently been added to the Tokyo Olympic programme.
“Juggling C1 and K1 is certainly not easy – it takes a physical and mental toll on the day of qualifying, especially if you don’t make the semifinals in your first runs. It means you have to do four runs, which can make for a long day at the office.”
Not that she’s adverse to long days in the office. Like her older siblings, Cook Island Olympians Bryden and Ella, Nicholas is a doctor, having completed six years of study in Dunedin and Christchurch and having moved home to the Bay of Plenty to work in Tauranga Hospital.
She’s taken three months off to compete in the five World Cups, basing herself in Pau in France, and is relishing the chance to chase her passion without compromising her career.
“Full-time work is definitely as it states – full-time – and it can be pretty mentally draining. Training around this takes serious motivation and dedication and the toughest time to stay motivated is working 12 days in a row and trying to keep the quality in my training, not just quantity. There was definitely an adjustment phase once I started work but I’ve managed to figure out what training I can and can’t feasibly fit into my week.”
She’s hopeful she can take time off again next year as well, with a four-year plan in place to try and emulate her older siblings and become an Olympic athlete, although unlike them, she’s keen to do it as a Kiwi.
Nicholas has been racing internationally since 2010, with a best World Cup finish of 18th in the C1 in London in 2014.
This will be Hawthorne’s first crack at this level, however, as he builds up for the under-23 world championships in Slovakia next month.
“I’m very excited to race and I just want to lay down a run that is the best I can and see how I compare,” Hawthorne said. “If I can race smart and be free of penalties, I will be happy.”
Racing starts tonight, with qualifying in both C1 and K1, with Markkleeberg – a town on the outskirts of the city of Leipzig – hosting its first World Cup event since 2011.
The men’s K1 has been dominated by Czech Vit Prindis, the only athlete with a perfect record after two World Cups. In the C1, Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis and Slovakia’s Matej Benus have shared gold and silver at Prague and Augsburg.
The spoils in the women’s C1 have been shared by Great Britain’s Kimberley Woods and Australia’s Jessica Fox, although both athletes failed to even make the final on the week they didn’t win gold.
The Markkleeberg course was built as part of Leipzig’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Olympics. The site is part of a massive former coal mining area, where the pits have been reclaimed and turned into popular lakes and waterways.