Hard graft for Kiwi paddler

Luuka Jones is the only Kiwi qualifier for the semifinals at the slalom World Cup in Spain. File Photo.

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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.

Despite being the only qualifying Kiwi, the Tauranga-born canoeist hasn’t always had the best record with the La Seu d’Urgell course.

In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics she needed two C1 qualifying runs and missed the K1 semifinals completely.

“Seu has never been my favourite course and today I got to do four runs down it,” says Luuka.

“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.”

She was 33rd after her first C1 run, with the top-20 progressing straight through, with fellow Kiwis Jane Nicholas 38th and Kelly Travers 47th.

However, Luuka 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.

Luuka 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 two sec 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 Luuka’ C1 semifinal.

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