Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Kayaking: Tauranga paddlers ready for Rio

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READY TO ROLL: Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones have finished an intensive two week training block in Rio de Janeiro. PHOTO/Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media 150716sp13BOP
READY TO ROLL: Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones have finished an intensive two week training block in Rio de Janeiro. PHOTO/Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media 150716sp13BOP

Olympic kayakers Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones hold no fears for the readiness of Rio de Janeiro, following their latest training camp in the South American city.

The canoe slalom pair from Tauranga have spent more time than most Kiwi athletes in Rio, chalking up nine weeks of training at the purpose-built Olympic Whitewater Stadium at the Deodoro X-Park complex over the last six months.

They've just finished another two-week block at the course and have been impressed with progress in the city just three weeks out from the opening ceremony.

"Rio's definitely getting geared up to welcome the world in a few weeks - they've made huge progression at getting the facilities and infrastructure up and running," Dawson said.

"Our venue is 100 percent ready and I'm looking forward to getting back here in two weeks when all the branding is up and the Olympic vibe is in full swing."

This will be the third Olympics for Jones, who was New Zealand's first female Olympic paddler as an 18-year-old in Beijing.

She is not daunted by talk of Zika virus, Rio crime or the rush to finish subway routes.
"I've been watching CNN over here, as it's the only TV station in English, and there seems to be a lot of negative news around the Games," Jones said.

"But being here, everything seems to be working okay and is on track. I think it will be an amazing Games in a pretty amazing city."

Jones was 14th in London four years ago and 11th at last year's world championships.

Getting as much time on the Deodoro course has been crucial to chase a medal this time around.

"The course is great and we have developed a pretty seamless routine for training days over the last few camps which we slipped into again on arrival.

"I have just been working on familiarising myself with as many gate combinations as possible so that when they set the race course, there are no major surprises and I have covered most things.

"We still have over a week of training when we return so in total we will have spent ten weeks here - a decent amount of time."

Dawson, 15th in London, has had a frustrating start to his international season but is confident he's turned a corner.

"It's exciting to be paddling well but I've been making too many mistakes this season so far," he said.

"Since the World Cups, I've really been working on my consistency. I've really been enjoying being out on the water, loving training and enjoying the build-up."

After mixing it up with the world's best kayakers in Rio, Jones and Dawson look forward to hosting them in New Zealand for the first time.

The pair are ambassadors for the WhitewaterXL New Zealand Invitational in November, with $100,000 in prizemoney at stake, to be held at the recently-opened Vector Wero Whitewater Park in South Auckland.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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