Tauranga kayaker leading team

Tauranga’s Callum Gilbert (left) and Finn Butcher (Alexandra) will lead the 14-strong New Zealand junior canoe slalom team at the world age group championships in Slovakia this week. Photo: Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media.

Tauranga kayaker Callum Gilbert will join Alexandra's Callum Gilbert in leading a 14-strong New Zealand challenge at the canoe slalom under-23 and junior world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia this week.

The K1 pair have been regular ICF World Cup semifinalists over recent season and Butcher (15th) and 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.

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.

Under-23

K1 men: Callum Gilbert, Alex Hawthorne, Finn Butcher

K1 women: Courtney Williams, Kensa Randle

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



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