New Zealand Olympians Luuka Jones and Mike Dawson have breezed into the semifinals of the first World Cup canoe slalom event of the season in Slovakia overnight.
Jones was the seventh-fastest qualifier in the women’s K1 division on a cold opening day on the Liptovsky Mikulas course in the Slovakian mountains, clocking 108.02secs in her first run, just 5.07secs adrift of top-qualifier Corinna Kuhnle (Austria).
Kuhnle followed up her European silver medal earlier this month with a solid run in the women’s K1, finishing 0.80secs ahead of reigning world champion Jessica Fox (Australia).
New Zealand’s other paddlers Courtney Williams and Jane Nicholas were 56th and 59th in their first runs with missed gates, though both improved in their repechage runs, finishing 34th and 39th.
Jones had a tricky first run in the C1 division, clipping the 19th gate and earning a 2sec penalty, which was enough to miss the automatic top-20 qualifiers by just 0.56secs.
She was 4secs faster in her repechage run, however, easing into the semifinals fourth out of the top-10 who progressed.
“It was a bit of a mixed day - I had a good K1 run but made some mistakes at the bottom which lost a lot of time and the C1 was definitely a bit of a battle,” Jones said. “I haven’t been feeling super-good in my C1 over the past few weeks so I’m trying to get it back but I’m really looking forward to my K1 semifinal tomorrow.”
Dawson also needed a second run to qualify in the men’s K1, though he did it in style.
Jack Dangen was the leading Kiwi in the first run, with a sharp 102.24secs leaving him 39th in his World Cup debut, just 2.02secs off qualifying. Dawson was a further 2secs back in 49th, while Callum Gilbert missed a gate to ruin his chances, though his raw time of 97.27secs would’ve been good enough to finish 14th.
Dawson turned things around in the repechage, however, blazing down the course to top qualifiers in 94.85secs, the sixth-fastest time of the day overall.
“That was pretty damn stressful - my first run was also quick but I blew one move which made my time look terrible,” Dawson said. “The second run was mint though and was a sweet way to finish the day off.”
Gilbert again came agonisingly close to qualifying, just 0.37secs off 10th-spot in 13th, while Dangen ended his racing in 23rd, 8.01secs behind Dawson.
C1 paddler Ben Gibb was the other Kiwi in action today, missing a gate in his first run to lie 59th but improving dramatically in his second run to finish 22nd.
Caption: Luuka Jones in action in the women's C1 at the first canoe slalom World Cup of the season in Slovakia. Photo by Mike Dawson.
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