Jones makes fast start at worlds

Kayaker Luuka Jones picked the perfect time to nail a qualifying run at the canoe slalom world championships in London.

Jones had the 19th-fastest time in the 67-boat field, putting her straight through to Saturday's semifinal and giving her dreams of a third consecutive Olympic appearance a major boost.

New Zealand kayaker Luuka Jones on her way to qualifying for the semifinals at the canoe slalom world championships in London. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services.

It wasn't all plain-sailing for the 26-year-old paddler, however, getting off to a rocky start and picking up an early 2sec penalty on the tough Lee Valley whitewater course, but her 97.51sec time was just good enough.

"I'm really happy I qualified in the end - I wouldn't say I was super-happy but it was enough at the end of the day," says Jones.

"I made a big mistake through the third and fourth gates and really had to adjust my line, then I hit a gate about a third of the way down, but you really need to be objective on this course and just keep going. You can't get caught up in the mistakes."

Although Jones finished just 0.06secs in front of Ukrainian Viktoriia Us, it was a crucial margin, as it meant she avoided the afternoon repechage round.

That's something of a novelty for Jones this season, after struggling for consistency through the world cup rounds.

"I've been saving it all for this one," she quips.

"It makes a big difference - I would've been waiting around for three hours before the next run and it's mentally draining more than anything. Now I've got two days to readjust and correct a few things before the semifinal."

She can also relax and watch the other members of the New Zealand team, with C1 paddlers Ben Gibb, James Thwaites and Shaun Higgins in action today and K1 men Mike Dawson, Callum Gilbert and Finn Butcher lining up on Friday.

The K1 paddlers need to finish in the top-15 nations to qualify a position at Rio de Janeiro, while the C1 canoeists need to place in the top-10.

Meanwhile, New Zealand-raised Cook Islands paddler Ella Nicholas was 51st in the first round with a 115.25sec time.

She was in good company, however, with defending world champion Australian Jess Fox also having to go through the repechage round after finishing the first heat in 38th spot.


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