Canoe slalom: Jones holds on to win sixth national title

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WORLD CLASS: Double Olympian Luuka Jones won her sixth national title over Easter. PHOTO/IAN MERCER
WORLD CLASS: Double Olympian Luuka Jones won her sixth national title over Easter. PHOTO/IAN MERCER

Tauranga double Olympian Luuka Jones won her sixth national canoe slalom title over Easter on the man-made course off the Tekapo River.

Tekapo was the venue for Jones' very first nationals 12 years ago.

"It was an incredible weekend racing the national champs. We have an amazing canoe slalom community in NZ and it brought me back to one of the reasons I fell in love with this sport - the people. I was happy to defend my title, though only just," she said.

Jones has spent her year preparing for Rio that will be her third Olympics. She will head back later this month for another training camp on the Olympic course.

But at Tekapo after dominating the qualifications and semis, Jones almost came unstuck in the final after CSBOP paddler Anna Higgins, who is studying in Dunedin, lay down a clean run time of 111.53.

Jones followed Higgins down the course in a flat time of 103.60 but hit three gates to incur six seconds of penalties to sneak the win by 1.93 seconds. Another BOP paddler, Jane Nicholas, was third.

Higgins had her moment to celebrate when she won the U23 national title.

In the K1 men, Tauranga paddler Callum Gilbert took the overall NZ and U23 titles after finishing just 0.75 seconds behind Australian Warwick Draper, with Finn Butcher of Central Otago in third.

Ben Gibb of Tauranga dominated all rounds of the C1M to secure his fourth national title ahead of the Australian Draper with James Thwaite (CSBOP) in 3rd overall U23 title.

The women's C1 was another tough tussle with the top ranked paddler Kelly Travers having to settle for fourth after fast clean runs by both Haylee Dangen (CSBOP) in first and Jane Nicholas (CSBOP) just 1.52 seconds adrift.

Tauranga's Claudia Paterson, fresh from dominating all classes at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Champs on the Hawea river the week before, was third overall and won both of the U18 women's age group national titles in K1W and C1W.

Tauranga Boys' College continued their production line of winners with the top U18 national trophies going to Callum Aitken for wins in both C1 and K1. Up and coming paddler Jack Egan from Aquinas College actually pipped Aitken in the C1 final, however he is still 14 and therefore had to settle for his first national age group (U16) title.

National Champions 2016

K1W Luuka Jones (CSBOP), K1M Callum Gilbert (CSBOP), C1W Haylee Dangen (CSBOP), C1M Ben Gibb (CSBOP), C2 N Hoffman/M Hoffman (COW)

National Ranking Trophies Awarded

U18W Claudia Paterson (CSBOP), U18M Zack Mutton (Okere Falls), Senior K1W Luuka Jones (CSBOP), Senior K1M Mike Dawson (Okere Falls), Senior C1W Jane Nicholas (CSBOP), Senior C1M Ben Gibb (CSBOP)

- Bay of Plenty Times

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