Kiwi kayaker Callum Gilbert has recorded his best finish at an ICF World Cup canoe slalom series round, finishing 17th in Prague overnight.
The Tauranga 20-year-old had a clear run with no penalties in his K1 semifinal run, crossing in 98.79secs. He was just 7secs off the fastest time and 1.3secs off making the top-10 final.
"It was wicked to see that, on a good day, I'm not too far away from mixing it with the big dogs," Gilbert said.
Czech paddlers Jiri Prskavec, Ondrej Tunka, Vavra Hradilek and Vit Prindis took the first four places in the final, with just 0.01 separating Prskavec and Tunka.
2012 Olympic silver medalists Hradilek and Prindis had already confirmed they're coming to New Zealand in November for the inaugural WhitewaterXL at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland, with Hradilek one of the event's ambassadors.
Gilbert, meanwhile, was turning his attention to next week's final world cup round in Slovenia, trying to complete a perfect record of making every semifinal this season.
"It's already been a great season and I'm really looking forward to the world cup final next week. I've been really keen to go back to Tacen since the first and last time I went there in 2013 - it's a really fun course and hopefully I can have another solid run to cap off my season."
Fellow K1 paddlers Mike Dawson and Finn Butcher will also race in Slovenia, along with K1 women Jane Nicholas and Kensa Randle and C1 paddler Benn Gibb.
Earlier - Saturday:
Tauranga's Callum Gilbert has made it four from four in the latest round of the ICF World Cup canoe slalom series in Prague.
The young Kiwi had a clean second heat to cruise through to his fourth semifinal appearance of the season, clocking 90.01secs for the sixth-fastest K1 time.
"I said at the start of the season I wanted to work on solid, consistent runs and so far it has been working really well," Gilbert said.
"I've surpassed my goals for the season and am chuffed with how I've done so far. "
Other Tauranga paddlers had mixed results.
Finn Butcher and Mike Dawson both had gate touches in their second runs, clocking 93.55secs to finish out of the running in 15th and 16th respectively. Only a single touch kept Butcher from qualifying in the first heat, with a 92.32 time putting him 33rd, just 0.54secs outside the top-30.
Ben Gibb also struck gate trouble in the C1 first heat, picking up four touches - a clean run would've been fast enough for the top-10, with three more touches in the second run ending his weekend.
Jane Nicholas was 39th in the first run of the women's K1, with Kensa Randle 10 spots further back - while Randle was vastly improved in the second round, finishing 20th, Nicholas missed gate 9 to end her chances.
Gilbert now turns his attention to the K1 semifinals on Saturday night (NZ time), keen to build on a breakthrough season.
"I've only had one really solid semi run this season and want to try to better that tomorrow. It's another tough semifinal field with some quality paddlers so it will be good to see how I mix with them again."
New Zealand's Olympic silver medalist Luuka Jones is sitting out the last two rounds of the season. Her next event will be November's inaugural WhitewaterXL at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland, where she and Dawson will be among the event ambassadors