Fantastic fourth for Jones


Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Luuka Jones has finished fourth in just her second-ever ICF World Cup round in the C1 boat. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

A week after New Zealand’s first World Cup canoe slalom medal, Luuka Jones has come agonisingly close to a second at the latest ICF round in Germany.
The Tauranga paddler made her first-ever final in her first season racing the C1 class and for most of her run on the Augsburg course, looked in complete control.
However, a tiny mistake two gates from the finish saw her roll. She recovered quickly, finishing with no penalties in 135.00secs, but the 11secs she lost proved the difference between second and fourth.
“I made my first-ever final in C1, which I was super-stoked about and if you said at the start of the year that I’d finish fourth in my second World Cup in C1, I’d be over the moon,” Jones said. “It’s been I guess a pretty good day – but at the moment, I’m a little bit annoyed and I’m still getting over it. Next week when I reflect, I will probably decide that’s a pretty good start to my season in C1 and there’s still a lot to learn and a long way to go.”
Australia’s Jess Fox won the final in a clean run of 116.86secs, more than 10secs ahead of Mallory Franklin (Great Britain), with Lena Stoecklin (Germany) just 1.12secs ahead of Jones in third.
The C1 women’s class was recently added to the 2020 Olympic programme and Jones, the silver medalist in K1 at the Rio Olympics, is hoping to race both in Tokyo.
She has already made a strong start with those ambitions, also making the semifinal of the K1 tonight.
Mike Dawson is also in action in tonight’s extreme slalom division, having won gold – and New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup canoe slalom medal – in that event last week in the Czech Republic.

Canoe breakthrough for Kiwi paddler

Luuka Jones has made a breakthrough in the C1 division on the ICF World Cup series overnight. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Luuka Jones showed her pursuit of a Tokyo Olympic double is no folly after a storming opening to the second ICF World Cup canoe slalom round of the season in Germany overnight.
Jones qualified for the semifinals in both the C1 and K1 classes for the first time in her career.  While the Olympic K1 silver medalist was solid in qualifying 14th in that division, she shocked herself by qualifying fourth-fastest in the C1 (canoe) class in her first season competing.
“I was stoked to finish fourth mostly because it was a good time and really competitive,” Jones said. “Because I haven’t been paddling it for very long, I didn’t know what to expect so I guess I was a bit surprised to finish so high up but it’s just really positive and shows I’m heading in the right direction.”
The C1 women’s class was recently added to the 2020 Olympic programme.  Competitors kneel in their canoe boats with a single-bladed paddle, as opposed to sitting in K1 kayaks with a double-bladed paddle.
Jones hit two gates on the way down the Augsburg course in her C1 run, picking up 4secs’ worth of time penalties, but her 120.81sec time was just 5.59secs behind top qualifier Kimberly Woods (Great Britain), who has swept all before her in the women’s C1 this year, winning the European title and then the opening World Cup last weekend.
Double world champion Australian Jess Fox was second-fastest in 118.02, ahead of Spain’s Nuria Vilarrubla in 118.89.
Jones also picked up two touches in her opening K1 run but held it together to post a 108.39sec time, just 5.20secs behind leader Mallory Franklin (Great Britain).
“I had a massive touch on gate 2 and the poles were swinging and it wasn’t a really good start to the run but overall it was solid. I guess I had a pretty fast time considering that it felt a bit off the whole way down – I’m pretty happy with how the day went and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Fellow Kiwis Jane Nicholas and Kensa Randle finished 45th and 60th respectively in their first K1 runs, both improving in their second runs but missing the semifinals.
Alexandra’s Finn Butcher was the only New Zealand male to progress to the semifinals, meanwhile, although he needed to break a second-run drought to do it.
Mike Dawson was the fastest Kiwi in the first run of the K1 in 37th, with Callum Gilbert 41st, but Butcher picked up a controversial 50sec penalty for missing a gate.
“I smashed gate three with the edge of my boat and it sent the pole flying,” Butcher explained. “It swung in an unfortunate direction and I picked up a half-head and a 50sec.”
For the first time at World Cup level, however, Butcher qualified through the repechage second run, with his 98.84sec time good enough for ninth, with the top-10 joining the top-30 from the first heat.  He’s enjoying the Augsburg course, which reminds him of his home Kawerau River in Central Otago.
“In the semifinal, I just want to race my race – I’ve been trying to focus on letting myself be free and unleash on the course. The big names are all there but in K1 men’s now, there’s a lot of people in the semifinal that can pull out a run and smash it.”
Dawson, who made the semifinal in last week’s first World Cup in the Czech Republic, finished 27th in his second run and Gilbert 43rd.
Dawson will instead turn his attention to tonight’s extreme slalom division, having won gold – and New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup canoe slalom medal – in that event last week.
Gilbert and Patrick Washer also paddled the men’s C1, with neither progressing amid tough competition led by Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek.
Caption: Luuka Jones has made a breakthrough in the C1 division on the ICF World Cup series overnight.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

History for Kiwi kayaker


Photo by Jan Halmoka/
Mike Dawson celebrates New Zealand’s first World Cup canoe slalom medal in Prague. Photo by Jan Hamolka/

Mike Dawson has created a little piece of kayaking history, becoming the first New Zealander to win an ICF World Cup canoe slalom medal over the weekend.
The two-time Olympian grabbed gold in the men’s extreme canoe slalom final at the first World Cup of the season in Prague, heading off a star trio of Czech paddlers on their home course. The non-Olympic extreme event featured four boats negotiating the tricky Troja course, with slalom gates and a compulsory eskimo roll to negotiate.
The 30-year-old Dawson edged his good friend and long-time rival Vavra Hradilek – the 2012 Olympic silver medalist – in the final, ahead of Vit Prindis and fellow Czech Ondrej Tunka.
“It was a pretty cool race in the final, with Vavra, Vit and Ondrej Tunka, and it was cool to take it to the Czechs and win New Zealand’s first world cup medal,” Dawson said. “It was pretty flat-tack top-to-bottom and you’ve got to do two gates, so it’s full-on, but once we came through the quarter finals into the semis, it was anyone’s race.”
Rising Rotorua paddler Zach Mutton finished seventh.
All three Czech paddlers have experience paddling in New Zealand, having each beaten Dawson to titles at Kiwi events within the last year. Prindis was also coming off his own breakthrough World Cup win, having taken out the K1 slalom title hours earlier.
Amid a field brimming with talent, Dawson was pleased with his own slalom run, finishing 21st in the semifinal with the top-10 progressing through.
“The top three-quarters of the course was amazing and I had really good feeling on the water and was going for it. Then the wheels fell off a little bit towards the bottom part of the course, which just shows that I probably haven’t done enough off-season training this year. I’m slowly getting back into shape but I’ve got to be patient for the next world cup next week in Germany, build on those positive things and keep improving.”
Fellow Kiwi Luuka Jones, meanwhile, came within a touch of making the women’s K1 final, finishing 12th in her semifinal run.
Her 112.19sec time included 4secs worth of penalties, having touched gates 2 and 17, leaving her just 1.31secs outside the top-10 final.
It was a similar story in her C1 (canoe) semifinal a day earlier, when she missed one gate entirely and added four touches for 58secs’ worth of penalties to finish 24th, although her raw time would’ve been good enough for the second-fastest semifinal time.
The next World Cup is in Augsburg, Germany, next weekend.


Fast start for kayaker Jones

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Luuka Jones has made a great start to her ICF World Cup season in Prague. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Kiwi kayaker Luuka Jones has made a great start to her World Cup canoe slalom campaign, easing through to the semifinals in both the K1 and C1 in Prague overnight.
The Rio Olympic K1 silver medalist will be joined in the semifinals by fellow Olympian Mike Dawson, who squeezed through to the men’s K1 semifinals amidst intense competition.
Jones, in her first season racing the C1 (canoe) division, started slowly in the windy conditions, picking up three 2sec penalties in her first C1 heat to lie in 25th position, more than 25secs behind Austrian Nadine Weratschnig’s fastest time. But she stormed back to win the repechage heat, taking 15secs off her previous time to qualify 21st for tonight’s semifinal.
She then took things up a notch in her K1 (kayak) heat, posting a flawless time of 91.48secs in seventh spot, just 3.83secs behind top qualifier Stefanie Horn (Italy).
“I was definitely a bit shaky with my first C1 run, unsure about how to do some of the moves and made a big mistake at the bottom of the course,” Jones explained. “It did seem like shaking out the cobwebs as the next run felt solid and I was happy to put down a decent time. The C1 made my K1 run feel quite easy though and the times were tight so to be in the top-10 was a good day.”
Fellow Kiwis Jane Nicholas and Kensa Randle found things tougher, finishing 51st and 53rd in their K1 first heat and 31st and 32nd in the repechage, while Nicholas finished 19th in the second round of the C1.
The men’s contingent found things even harder, with Dawson, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert all well back in the first heat of the K1, after the ICF allowed all competitors a full practice run on the course.  Butcher’s clean 82.89sec run was the fastest of the Kiwis and although he was only 5.16secs behind leader Lucien Delfour (Australia), it was still only good enough for 34th overall.
Dawson adjusted best for the second run, however, snatching the 10th and final qualifying spot by just 0.16secs with a clean 83.92sec run.
“The course is mint but the gates weren’t too challenging, while the practice run made things even tighter with the European paddlers all firing and hungry to start their season well,” Dawson said.  “I made a couple of mistakes but it was good to get through.”
Gilbert and Patrick Washer also raced the men’s C1, with Gilbert 45th after the first round and Washer 57th after missing a gate, then Washer picked up two penalties in his second run to finish 30th, while Gilbert had one touch for 107.34 and 36th.
Jones, meanwhile, is looking forward to tonight’s C1 semifinals despite nursing a rib injury she picked up earlier in the week.
“The course is really tricky for the C1 semifinal – we’ve just spent over an hour at the course deciding how to approach the race and think of the best way to do the gates. It will certainly be interesting!”

Huge milestone for AIMS Games

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The Waiheke Island College cross country team trains on Oneroa Bay as they prepare for this year’s Anchor AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

September’s Anchor AIMS Games has breached two significant milestones, with more than 10,000 athletes from over 300 schools heading to Tauranga.
When registrations closed at midnight last night, 10,139 intermediate-aged competitors had entered, from 302 schools around New Zealand and the Pacific.
Entries have been received from Indonesia, Tonga, the Cook Island and Australia, while for the first time, 10 para-athletes will also compete in the week-long tournament, with five each in cross country and swimming. Last year, 9300 athletes from 271 schools took part in the 21 sporting codes but 72 new schools this year have helped push the numbers through the roof.
“We decided to consolidate this year and not add any more sports but we’ve seen significant growth in nearly all our code numbers,” tournament director Vicki Semple explained. “That tells us just how successful the 2016 tournament was – kids have gone away and told their friends and younger siblings just how much they loved it. It also suggests we’ve got the balance between competition and participation right – while we celebrate our champions, not all 10,000 athletes can win a medal, so the experiences are obviously transcending mere winning or losing.”
An economic impact study found last year’s tournament injected more than $3 million into the Western Bay of Plenty and expanded the region’s Gross Domestic Product by $1.98 million.
And former AIMS athletes continue to make their mark on the world stage, with a host of All Blacks, hockey stars, netballers, rowers and sailors having cut their teeth in Tauranga over the 14 years the event has been running.
Netball remains the largest code at the tournament, with a staggering 1464 players competing for 122 teams this year. That’s an extra 16 teams from last year, which was already New Zealand’s largest netball tournaments at any level.
Basketball has jumped from 75 teams to 97 in a year, with 1164 athletes set to take to the courts, while girls’ football has gone from 28 teams to 41. Semple was just as delighted with the smaller sports, however.
“Gymnastics has gone from 308 to 399 and I’ve been blown away by canoe slalom, which has pretty much doubled numbers from its debut last year, with 60 competitors entered from 17 different schools. We were lucky enough to have (Olympic silver medalist) Luuka Jones help out with the tournament last year and it just shows what an amazing impact momentum can have on a smaller sport.”
Squash and sailing have nearly broken through the 100-athlete barrier too, with squash boosted by the extra profile of Tauranga hosting next month’s world junior championships. BMX numbers have also increased after its debut in 2016, while there will be 306 indoor bowlers this year, sharply up from the 250 last year, and an extra 30 hockey players in the 6-a-side mixed division.
One of the innovations this year has been a “Road to the AIMS Games” series on social media, featuring schools the length and breadth of the country preparing, along with ACC SportSmart warm-ups delivered by the likes of All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder, netballer Leana de Bruin and para-swimmer Sophie Pascoe.
See the latest video here!

The 2017 AIMS Games will run from September 10-15 at a range of venues across the Western Bay of Plenty. The premier sporting event for 11, 12 and 13 year olds is a strategic partnership between Sport Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and the four Bay of Plenty intermediate schools.

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Former Silver Fern Leana de Bruin helps the Berkley Intermediate netball team prepare for this year’s Anchor AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
St Mary’s Catholic School in Putaruru has a girls’ football team heading to this year’s Anchor AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The Kamo Intermediate hockey teams recently featured on “The Road to the AIMS Games”, building up to this year’s Anchor AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder helps the Titahi Bay Intermediate rugby sevens teams prepare for this year’s Anchor AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media


Jones leads whitewater charge in Europe

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Olympic silver medalist Luuka Jones will lead New Zealand’s World Cup canoe slalom campaign, beginning this weekend. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Luuka Jones has been given a late boost as a seven-strong New Zealand canoe slalom team heads into the first ICF World Cup of the season in Prague this weekend.
Jones, the Olympic K1 (kayak) silver medalist, has taken on the additional challenge of C1 (canoe) this year and will make her World Cup debut on the famous Troja venue in Prague.
It comes the same week the International Olympic Committee confirmed that women’s C1 would be added to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, although Jones was keeping her focus firmly in the short term.
“I’m looking forward to racing in Prague – it’s one of my favourite courses – and it will be the first World Cup for me doing both C1 and K1 so there will be some learning going on but at the same time, I am hoping to put down good runs in both classes,” Jones said. “By doubling up, we’re now having to fit in training for two classes instead of one and because they are technically quite different, I need to spend time developing both. It is a bit of an experiment but so far, it is working.”
Jones finished second in both classes at a race in Pau, France – the venue for this year’s world championships – recently and will face a world-class field in Prague, including Rio K1 gold medalist Maialen Chourraut (Spain) and bronze medalist Jess Fox (Australia).  She will be joined in the K1 class by fellow Kiwis Jane Nicholas and Kensa Randle, with Nicholas also racing the C1.
The New Zealand men’s charge, meanwhile, will be led by Olympic finalist Mike Dawson and rising stars Callum Gilbert and Finn Butcher.
Gilbert distinguished himself last year, making the semifinals of every World Cup he attended, and wants to press on this season.
“There are lots of tough competitors here in Prague, with paddlers back into training after the Olympics and looking sharp,” Gilbert said.  “Following on from last year, I’m looking to maintain my consistency, searching for solid runs to see how I size up for the rest of the season.”
Butcher also had a breakthrough year last year and joined Jones, Dawson and Gilbert as a carded athlete, supported by High Performance Sport New Zealand, for this season.
He had a solid summer of training at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland, before spending the last month in Pau with Jones, Dawson and coach Campbell Walsh.
“This year is a big learning year for me, aiming to learn what works for me and what doesn’t in terms of planning, racing, nutrition and psychology and really refine it for the world champs at the end of the year,” Butcher said.  “I’m looking to start the season paddling with intent and freedom, then see where that takes me!”
The men’s K1 field will also feature all three Rio medalists, led by Great British Olympic champion Joe Clarke, while the local Czech paddlers will be extremely hard to topple on their home waters.
Patrick Washer is the other New Zealand team member this weekend, joining Gilbert in the C1 ranks.  Racing starts on Friday night (NZ time).
NZ team: K1: Men: Finn Butcher, Mike Dawson, Callum Gilbert. Women: Luuka Jones, Jane Nicholas, Kensa Randle. C1: Men: Callum Gilbert, Patrick Washer. Women: Luuka Jones, Jane Nicholas.

Tributes flow for former headmaster

Photo by Jamie Troughton
Dscribe Media Services

Garth Ian Napier Sim
14/11/1914 – 27/05/2017

He lived through two World Wars, the 1918 ‘flu epidemic and the Great Depression before inspiring a generation of Tauranga schoolboys.
Tributes continue to flow after the remarkable life of Garth Sim ended over the weekend, well on the way to his 103rd birthday.
Former staff and students at Tauranga Boys’ College (TBC), where he was headmaster from 1959-1966, have called him one of the most innovative, respected, visionary educators the city has seen.
Family and friends recall a dignified, sagacious man who had a great sense of fair play. A lover of sports, gin, firm handshakes and cryptic crosswords, he had an expansive network of ‘old boys’; former students were welcomed into the Sim home for half a century.
As he eased off to sleep for the final time on Saturday, wife Nen was – as always in the last 77 years – by his side, about to celebrate her own 97th birthday. Earlier in the day, they had shared lunch with three daughters and Garth, appetite intact until the end, managed three courses.
However, it was his appetite for education that propelled him to Tauranga, from his beloved Otago.
Born in 1914 on a Waikaka sheep-run in West Otago, he spent his formative years in Balclutha and Heriot, in the days when a bloke lit gas streetlights from the back of a pony each evening.
He represented South Otago at schoolboy rugby level, then Otago Juniors and watched George Nepia and the 1930 All Blacks beat the touring British Lions at Carisbrook.
By the Depression years, he was working on the land and occasionally panning for gold until his father encouraged him to further his studies. After marching into Otago University in 1936, his love affair with education launched in earnest and his courtship of Nen began when the pair met on a train in 1938.
Stints at Scots College in Wellington, Tokomairiro District High School in Milton and South Otago Boys’ High followed, punctuated by the arrival of four daughters – Helen, Kay, Marg and Judy. The Sim family moved north when Garth secured the top job at Tauranga Boys’, starting in 1959, in what was a tumultuous period. The co-ed Tauranga College had split just a year earlier, stripping TBC of half its senior staff. The new headmaster worked tirelessly to recruit and train high calibre staff and gave the students a simple mantra.
“All that is expected of any boy is his very best at all times,” he wrote in 1960.
His innovative approach would see him implement a mentoring and training programme for young teachers. He was also was the first secondary school principal in New Zealand to appoint a full-time guidance counsellor. Under his watch, academic achievement and school pride rocketed as the school offered more subjects, more competition, more awards, more support and he insisted younger boys study both music and drama.
Former Tauranga Boys College deputy principal Rob Naumann is a former student who recalls Garth’s practice of personally delivering students’ mid-year and final reports.
“Each boy in each class was required to leave his desk to receive his report and with the handover came a perceptive comment relating to the students progress or lack of it, “ Rob says. “Regardless of the achievement level, each boy was left in no doubt that the principal cared about his performance and wanted him to do what he was capable of. It taught students accountability and, at the same time, made all students feel that they were valued at the highest level of school leadership.
“He was educationally innovative, a superb manager of people, a leader who never shied away from the difficult tasks, a man of humility, a warm personality and who possessed a determination and energy that would not be denied. He inspired so many through taking an interest in their lives and encouraging them to look at the possibilities ahead.”
Ill health forced Garth to step down from his college role but he continued to work until age 83. Initially, he was employed to manage training and education at Tasman pulp and paper mill in Kawerau and he went on to share his meticulous book keeping skills for accountancy, law and engineering firms around Tauranga.
But, for three quarters of his 102-plus years, Garth’s heart remained in education.
“For hundreds of boys he was the epitome of a man who valued respect for self and for others, values that are still very much central to Tauranga Boys’ College in 2017,” Rob explained. “What a legacy he has left.”

A celebration of Garth Ian Napier Sim’s life will be held at 11am on Friday, June 2, at Olive Tree Cottage, 247 Joyce Rd in Tauranga.

Photo by Jamie Troughton
Dscribe Media Services

Team boats focus for Carrington

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Lisa Carrington’s last foray in a big boat was at the 2017 national championships, alongside fellow Eastern Bay paddlers Jaimee Lovett, Rachel Clarke and Carla Reid. Now she’ll be taking her new-found big-boat passion onto the world stage, competing in the K4 during the upcoming ICF World Cup series in Europe. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
World and Olympic champion Lisa Carrington will skip her favoured K1 200m event on the upcoming ICF World Cup series in Europe, instead turning her focus to New Zealand’s burgeoning team boats.
With a record eight-strong female squad named by Canoe Racing New Zealand selectors, Carrington will mostly compete in K2 and K4 combinations in the first two events of the season, in Portugal and Hungary, although she will return to the K1 500m ranks at the latter event.
It means rising stars Caitlin Ryan (North Shore) and Aimee Fisher (Hawke’s Bay) will get starts in the individual boats, with Ryan tackling the K1 500m in Portugal and national champion Fisher paddling the K1 200m in Hungary.  Fisher made a World Cup final in the sprint distance in Duisburg, Germany, last year.
The New Zealand team flies out this weekend, heading for a training camp in Portugal, before the World Cup starts on May 19.
After the unprecedented success of their K4 boat last year – Fisher, Ryan, Kayla Imrie and Jaimee Lovett finished fifth in Rio – selectors have given national women’s coach Rene Olsen two of the larger boats for the World Cups.  Carrington replaces fellow Whakatane paddler Lovett – now retired – in one boat, while Kim Thompson, Briar McLeely, Rebecca Cole and Britney Ford will form a second quartet, competing in both K4 200m and 500m events at both rounds.
“Being able to put two quality K4 boats onto the world stage is a big achievement for a country the size of New Zealand,” Olsen said.  “I’m incredibly proud of both the depth we’ve developed and that our best athletes have an ambition to be a part of the team boats now.  The exciting part is that there’s still a long way to go.”
Carrington and Fisher will also combine in the K2 200m in Portugal, alongside McLeely and Imrie, with Carrington and Fisher also racing the K2 500m alongside Thompson and Cole.
Fisher and Ryan will race the K2 200m in Hungary, with McLeely and Imrie, and Carrington and Ryan will combine for the K2 500m, again joined by Thompson and Cole.
The New Zealand team will return after the second World Cup at the end of May, before a new team will be named to tackle the world championships in Račice, Czech Republic, from August 23-27.
New Zealand team: Lisa Carrington (Eastern Bay of Plenty), Rebecca Cole (North Shore), Aimee Fisher (Hawke’s Bay), Britney Ford (Poverty Bay), Kayla Imrie (Mana), Briar McLeely (North Shore), Caitlin Ryan (North Shore), Kim Thompson (Poverty Bay).
World Cup 1 (Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal) – May 19-21
World Cup 2 (Szeged, Hungary) – May 26-28

Jones wins eighth canoe slalom crown 

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Luuka Jones on her way to victory in the women’s K1 at the NZCT New Zealand canoe slalom championships on the Tarawera River in Kawerau. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Luuka Jones romped to her eighth K1 title at the NZCT New Zealand canoe slalom championships over the weekend and narrowly missed adding the C1 double as she eyes a busy year on the world stage.
With a Cyclone Cook-compressed schedule and record fields of paddlers, the two-day championships also saw a clutch of young talent coming through on the Tarawera River in Kawerau but none could touch Olympic silver medalist Jones in the K1 final.
The 28-year-old clocked 84.61secs in the final, with Jane Nicholas 6secs back and another Tauranga paddler, 18-year-old schoolgirl Claudia Paterson, breaking through for her first open podium spot in 105.34.
Jones has added the C1 class to her arsenal this year and was cruising through that final  too before the nose of her boat hit a gate late in her run and she incurred a 50sec time penalty.
“It was a bit unfortunate but I’ve been really happy with my C1 times over the weekend,” Jones said. “Things are progressing and I’ve actually improved a lot more than I thought I would.”
Amid a busy weekend, Jones also paired with rising men’s paddler Callum Gilbert to win the mixed C2 final, which gave her a glimpse of how her season is going to look when she leaves for the ICF world cup series in Europe later this month.
“I was pretty busy and seemed to be running around lots over the weekend but it’s not just a physical thing, it’s the mental challenge of turning up and having to think about the course from two different perspectives.  I’m really excited about racing two classes this year.”
Gilbert, meanwhile, came out on top in the showdown between the three men representing New Zealand in Europe this year, edging Alexandra’s Finn Butcher and Olympian Mike Dawson in the K1 final.
The 20-year-old was 1.65secs clear of Butcher, despite picking up a 2sec touch, with Dawson third in 78.59.  It’s his second national K1 title, although Dawson was preparing for the Olympics and didn’t race when he won his first last year.
“New Zealand’s got a few good K1 men now so it was always going to be a hard final but I was pretty happy to do my best run of the weekend there,” Gilbert said. “It’s always good to get a good result when you’ve got the full competition there and it was really good for Mike to be here.”
Tauranga Boys’ College star Damian Torwick showed his potential by finishing fourth in the men’s final, after dominating last week’s national secondary school competition, finishing 11.36secs behind Gilbert.
Auckland schoolteacher Kelly Travers profited from Jones’ C1 lapse by winning the women’s C1 crown, with Nicholas also finishing second in that final, while Patrick Washer edged Gilbert in a highly competitive men’s C1 final, with Ben Gibb third.
K1: Luuka Jones (Tauranga) 84.61secs 1, Jane Nicholas (Tauranga) 90.69 2, Claudia Paterson (Tauranga) 105.34 3, Kensa Randle (Otago) 109.19 4, Casey Hales (Hawke’s Bay) 114.53 5.
C1: Kelly Travers (Auckland) 104.92 1, Jane Nicholas (Tauranga) 109.26 2, Hayee Dangen (Tauranga) 119.84 3, Madison Wilson (Australia) 125.09 4, Luuka Jones (Tauranga) 142.78 5.
K1: Callum Gilbert (Tauranga) 74.84 1, Finn Butcher (Alexandra) 76.49 2, Mike Dawson (Okere Falls) 78.59 3, Damian Torwick (Tauranga) 86.20 4, Callum Gibb (Tauranga) 86.59 5.
C1: Patrick Washer (Tauranga) 86.69 1, Callum Gilbert (Tauranga) 87.59 2, Ben Gibb (Tauranga) 89.42 3, Shaun Higgins (Tauranga) 90.41 4, James Thwaite (Tauranga) 97.42 5.
C2: Damian Torwick/Jack Saies 176.17 1, Lewis Hall/Stewart Bloor 195.30 2, Finn Anderson/Oliver Puchner 246.38 3, Aden Cassaidy/Jared Williams 363.15 4, Josh Scarlet/Fraser Hart 484.60 5.
Mixed C2: Callum Gilbert/Luuka Jones 172.00 1, Claudia Paterson/Alex Hawthorne 192.23 2, Courtney Williams/Finn Butcher 242.50 3, Lotte Rayner/Miro Matejka 337.47 4.

Flood-hit kayakers in waiting game

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The best secondary school kayakers from around Australasia are competing in Kawerau over the coming week. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

More than 100 teenaged kayakers are playing a waiting game in the aftermath of Eastern Bay of Plenty’s tumultuous flooding this week.

The New Zealand secondary school whitewater championships is due to begin on Monday but today’s practice day was cancelled because of high river levels on the Tarawera River in Kawerau.

The river was running as high as 85 cubic metres a second (cumecs), had dropped to 65cumecs today but organisers were hoping it would get down to normal levels of around 30cumecs by Monday.

“We’ve got eight competitors from Australia, as well as a large contingent from the South Island, who were all on their way when the flooding hit during the week and were understandably a bit apprehensive,” race director Liz Fowler explained. “Everyone’s relaxed about missing the practice day today though – we’re all very aware we’re just here for fun, while just down the road in Edgecumbe, people have lost their homes and most of their possessions.”

There’s a record field of 101 paddlers taking part, with strong showings from Auckland, Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki bolstering the traditional strongholds of Bay of Plenty and Central Otago.

The secondary school titles will be followed by the New Zealand canoe slalom championships at the same venue over Easter, with officials nervously eyeing long-range forecasts of another sub-tropical depression hitting New Zealand.