Mike Dawson secures Olympic slalom spot

By Jamie Troughton

Jubilant New Zealand kayaker Mike Dawson has just two goals left for the year, after qualifying for the London Olympics at the world canoe slalom championships in Slovakia overnight.

The 24-year-old finished 16th in the K1 semifinals, good enough to qualify as the 11th-best nation. He joins fellow Tauranga paddler Luuka Jones, who also qualified over the weekend.

It capped a remarkable year for Dawson, who has funded much of his European campaign through prize money won in various extreme races. He's eyeing one more extreme prize - the adidas Sickline world championships in Austria at the end of September - before beginning his Olympic buildup in earnest.

"I'm going to sit down today and make a bit of a plan for the next few months but I'll definitely give the world extreme championships a crack," Dawson said. "After that, I'm super-keen to get home for the Rugby World Cup final - if anyone has any spare tickets, I'd love to hear from them!"

Dawson is just the fourth Kiwi slalom racer to qualify for the Olympics after Donald Johnstone in 1992, Owen Hughes in 1996 and Jones in 2008.

After qualifying 10th for the semifinals in Bratislavia, he admits he had a few nervous moments in his final run.

"The course was pretty hard and totally different from what we'd done in training.  I made a big mistake at the start and lost more than 5secs with a touch at the top but from there to the bottom, I had a good run. I was quite stressed out and nervous the rest of the way down the course.

"Luckily I'd qualified high and there weren't too many guys after me so I knew I'd made it pretty much as soon as I'd finished my run.

"I was gutted at having a shitty run and to be within a touch of the final but at the same time, that Olympic spot was the key for me and I was so stoked to nail that."

Dawson's top-16 finish should secure him SPARC performance funding for the next year, which comes at a good time - his apartment in Slovakia was burgled a fortnight ago and he's down to his last 150 Euros in prizemoney.

Slovakia's Peter Kauzer won the men's K1, holding off Poland's Mateusz Polaczyk by 1.21secs in the final.

Dawson then helped the New Zealand men, along with Johann Roozenburg and Aaron Osborne, to ninth in the teams competition, 10.83secs behind winners Germany.

Jones - who qualified for London on Saturday by finishing 32nd and 15th nation in the women's K1 - joined Nikki Whitehead and Louise Jull to finish 13th in the women's team race.

It caps a golden month for Bay of Plenty kayakers after Ohope's Lisa Carrington won the K1 200m title at the world flatwater championships, also qualifying for London with Erin Taylor in the K2500m.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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