Things have come full circle for Kiwi kayaker Mike Dawson, who will embark on his 10th world canoe slalom championship in Pau, France, this week.
The 30-year-old is the veteran in a 10-strong New Zealand team at the championships, having first been to the worlds as an 18-year-old in Australia in 2005.
For most of his lengthy paddling career, which has seen him attend two Olympics, Dawson has successfully combined canoe slalom with creek and expedition paddling, subsidising his Olympic campaigns with extreme race prize money.
Now organisers have come to the party in Pau. For the first time, the ICF has added extreme slalom to the world championship disciplines, where four boats race down the course at once.
After racing the previous nine world championships solely in his K1 boat, being able to break out his plastic creek boat at the worlds is great news for Dawson.
“It’s definitely cool that extreme kayak has been included in the programme this year – it’s something Kiwis have always been traditionally really strong at, it’s a lot of fun and the spectators love it,” Dawson explained. “I’m really happy to get the chance to race in that discipline.”
Dawson’s best world championship finish in the past came in 2014, when he finished 12th in the K1. He was the fastest qualifier for the semifinals a year later in London but eventually finished 28th.
This season, racing extreme for the first time, he collected New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup gold medal at the opening round of the season in Prague, added bronze a week later in Germany, then picked up silver in Spain last month at the season finale. Fellow Kiwi K1 paddler Callum Gilbert will also line up in the extreme slalom this week, with Finn Butcher (K1), Shaun Higgins, Ben Gibb and Patrick Washer (men’s C1) completing the New Zealand men’s contingent.
Luuka Jones, meanwhile, will have her own twin-boat ambitions when the Rio de Janeiro silver medalist lines up in both the K1 and C1 this week.
After her break-out Olympic result in the K1 last year, she took up the C1 class this season to develop her all-round water skills but has quickly found her C1 results overtaking her traditional strength.
She made three World Cup finals this year, including finishing fourth in Germany in the second round of the series, adding sevenths in Italy and Spain. Her best K1 results, meanwhile, were a pair of 12ths to open the season.
“If you’d told me then I would make all but one C1 final I would have been very happy,” Jones said. “There have been a few challenges but overall I’m thrilled how it’s gone so far and I think I am more naturally talented in C1 than K1. There are some things I do more naturally in C1 and there are definitely learnings I can take from C1 into K1, with some of the lines I naturally take, which I could be taking in K1.”
She’ll have young paddlers Kensa Randle and Courtney Williams for company in the K1 class, with Kelly Travers also lining up in the C1.
Dawson said the New Zealanders had learned a lot from their Rio campaign and had applied it to the world champs.
“Luuka, myself and a lot of the Kiwi team have spent a lot of time here building up for the event – it’s something we saw worked really well in Rio so we’ve tried to capitalise on that by making Pau our home base ahead of the worlds,” he explained. “I’m loving paddling here and really enjoying my time on the water – it’s awesome to be in a sport that after 13years you can still have an amazing time at the events.”
Competition starts on Tuesday night (NZ time) at the venue, with most members of the New Zealand squad in action in teams racing, before the men’s K1 and women’s C1 get underway on Wednesday night.
NZ team: Men: Callum Gilbert (BOP), Mike Dawson (BOP), Finn Butcher (Otago). C1: Shaun Higgins (BOP), Patrick Washer (BOP), Ben Gibb (BOP).
Women: K1: Luuka Jones (BOP), Kensa Randle (Otago), Courtney Williams (BOP). C1: Jones, Kelly Travers (Auck).
Luuka Jones again led the New Zealand charge at the final canoe slalom World Cup of the season in Spain, as the sole Kiwi qualifier for the semifinals.
She didn’t have it all her own way on the La Seu d’Urgell course, venue for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, however – needing two C1 qualifying runs and missing the K1 semifinals completely.
“Seu has never been my favourite course and today I got to do do four runs down it,” Jones wryly noted. “I had a pretty bad day on the whole and a long one – I just didn’t paddle well. At least there are some good learnings to take into the world champs in a few weeks and it’s good to be in the C1 semifinals and get another shot tomorrow.”
Jones was 33rd after her first C1 run, with the top-20 progressing straight through, with fellow Kiwis Jane Nicholas 38th and Kelly Travers 47th.
But Jones laid down a clean 119.69sec run in the repechage round to qualify third, behind Brazil’s Ana Satila and Austria’s Nadine Weratschnig. Nicholas was 23rd, while Travers was 28th.
Jones will now be looking to qualify for her third C1 final of the season, in her first year in the kneeling, single-bladed discipline.
“I am feeling pretty consistent in C1 and it’s been great to make two finals so far this season – I’m just hoping to have a better day at the races tomorrow.”
Touches kept the Rio K1 silver medalist out of the K1 semifinals, however – her raw first round time of 106.16sec would’ve been good enough for ninth, except three 2sec penalties dropped her to 28th, with Nicholas 42nd and Courtney Williams a further 10 places back.
And a solitary touch on the 11th gate dropped Jones out of the top-10 progressing from the repechage too, ending up in 15th, with Nicholas 20th and Williams 38th.
It was a similar story in the highly competitive men’s K1, where Mike Dawson had a 94.44sec raw time – good enough for 11th in the first run – but also picked up three touches to drop him all the way back to 48th, a spot behind fellow Kiwi Callum Gilbert, with Finn Butcher 55th.
All three Kiwis came agonisingly close to qualifying in the repechage round, with Butcher 12th – just 0.81secs off the top-10 despite a touch – and Gilbert and Dawson in 17th and 19th respectively, each with two touches.
New Zealand’s C1 male contingent also had a tough day, with Ben Gibb and Shaun Higgins 49th and 53rd in their first runs, and Gibb 2.33secs outside the top-10 in his second run.
Dawson and Butcher, meanwhile, have both qualified for the quarterfinals of the men’s extreme slalom round, which also runs tonight alongside Jones’ C1 semifinal.
Luuka Jones has continued her remarkable C1 rise, finishing seventh at the latest round of the ICF canoe slalom World Cup in Italy.
The Rio Olympic K1 silver medalist’s decision to race both disciplines is already bearing fruit, making her second final in as many rounds and stringing together three solid runs over two days.
Her best run was arguably her semifinal, when she qualified fourth, just 2.93secs behind leader Nadine Weratschnig, in a time of 117.97secs which included a 2sec penalty touch.
She picked up two more touches in the final to finish 22.41secs behind runaway winner, Australian Jess Fox.
“I was really happy with my semi but I went a bit too hard in the final and wasn’t using the water very well,” Jones explained.
It’s another valuable lesson for her as she eyes both C1 and K1 at the Tokyo Olympics and she has another chance of improving in tonight’s K1 semifinals.
“Having already paddled the course twice is an advantage for sure and I’m looking forward to the K1, as paddling it with two blades will be easier in a lot of places!”
Fox brought up her third consecutive C1 World Cup title of 2017 in stunning fashion, posting a time of 100.83 to finish well ahead of Wolffhardt on 111.57, with Czech Tereza Fiserova third.
Czech Vit Prindis also added his third title of the year, winning the K1 men’s final, with his 87.15 time just enough to edge out Michal Smolen (United States) on 87.44. Both paddlers competed in New Zealand last summer at the inaugural Whitewater XL.
Kiwi Mike Dawson had a few issues in his semifinal, finishing 33rd, as a number of top paddlers failed to fire on the tough Ivrea course.
Dawson will also have another chance at redemption tonight, lining up in the extreme slalom heats alongside fellow Kiwi Finn Butcher, with Dawson having won a gold and bronze in his two World Cup outings in that discipline so far this season.
Luuka Jones has capped a big day at the fourth ICF World Cup canoe slalom round of the season, making the semifinals in both the C1 and K1 classes in Italy overnight.
The Olympic K1 silver medalist will be joined in the semifinals by her Rio teamate Mike Dawson, who squeaked into the men’s K1 top-40 by the skin of his teeth.
The natural course at Ivrea, near Turin, saw some fast times on the opening day, with Jones 11.48secs behind Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle, in qualifying 10th-fastest in the K1.
That was more a mark of Kuhnle’s performance, however – her time of 91.67secs shocked her opponents, with two-time Olympic medallist Jessica Fox (Australia) next fastest in 97.69 and Jones in a tight cluster of five paddlers all within a second of each other.
Her C1 heat performance was a little more varied – having added the kneeling, single-bladed class to her repertoire this year, Jones was off in her first heat, missing two gates and finishing 35th, with fellow Kiwi Jane Nicholas 29th.
Jones came storming back in the repechage heat, however, clocking the fastest time of 123.65sec to comfortably progress.
Nicholas was 12th in her second run, just off the top-10 who went through, while her K1 repechage was even more agonising, finishing 11th, just 1.01secs from making her first World Cup semifinal. The third K1 Kiwi, Courtney Williams, was 47th in her first run and 28th in her second run.
Dawson, meanwhile, needed all his race smarts to get through in the K1. He picked up a touch on the 18th gate in his first run, which dropped him out of the top-30 automatically qualifying, and another touch in his repechage. His 93.19sec time in the latter run put him inside the top-10 by just 0.06secs, with Slovakian Radoslav Miko 11th in 93.25.
Fellow Kiwi Finn Butcher was 54th in his first run and 20th in his second, with Callum Gilbert 52nd in his first run and 27th in his second. New Zealand’s C1 men’s contingent had a tough day, with Ben Gibb clocking 113.03secs to finish 43rd in his first run, but then he and Shaun Higgins missed gates in their subsequent runs to miss progressing.
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.
C1: Jane Nicholas, Luuka Jones
K1: Courtney Williams, Jane Nicholas, Luuka Jones
K1: Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert, Mike Dawson
C1: Shaun Higgins, Ben Gibb,
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.
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.
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.