Bay's home grown canoe slalom talent

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TOP FORM: Tauranga paddler Callum Gilbert has stepped up in international class in Europe this year. PHOTO/FILE A_010416sp17BOP
TOP FORM: Tauranga paddler Callum Gilbert has stepped up in international class in Europe this year. PHOTO/FILE A_010416sp17BOP

Talk Sport with Sue Clarke, Canoe Slalom Bay of Plenty

All eyes are on Rio with four of the Bay's home grown talent representing in canoe slalom.
Tauranga paddlers Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones will fly the Kiwi flag while siblings Ella and Bryden Nicholas will represent their father's homeland the Cook Islands.

It hasn't been all about Olympics over the last few months as the competition season in Europe featured three World Cups and the Junior and Under-23 World Champs in Poland.

Bay of Plenty was well represented across these teams with some very encouraging performances from the Bay's younger athletes.

Callum Gilbert, 20, who has come through all the Bay of Plenty programmes, showed great consistency to make all three senior World Cup semifinals and the semifinal for the Under-23 World Championships, missing a final by less than two seconds.

In the Under-18 World Championships, Rotorua's Okere Falls paddler Zack Mutton, who is still under 16 years of age, finished in the top 20 while Tauranga Boys' College kayaker Callum Aitken at his first Junior World Championships performed very well to make the semifinals.

Our top paddlers have traditionally started the sport at college age which is very late compared to the Europeans who dominate the sport at all levels.

This is changing now for the next generation, with new skills programmes designed for the younger athlete.

Entry level is via the Paddle Passport programme which teaches basic canoeing skills in a kayak on flat water. Time on the white water comes later.

Competition designed for this age group is also modified to flat water and canoe slalom will make its debut in the AIMS Games next month in an event based on the format for the Youth Olympic Games.

Of course the key to getting more kids paddling is having coaches.

Coachforce officer Aaron Osborne has continued to develop resources to help those interested get started in coaching. Some of these are online modules so are very achievable from anyone with any interest.

To learn more go to www.canoeslalombop.co.nz.

Canoe slalom at the Rio Olympics takes place from August 7-11.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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