Kayaking: Duct tape helps Kiwi to Beijing

By Eugene Bingham

A 19-year-old Tauranga woman can thank a kayak held together with tape for her making New Zealand Olympic history.

Luuka Jones was yesterday named in the New Zealand team for Beijing where she will be the first New Zealand woman to compete in the Olympic slalom kayaking event.

She qualified at a World Cup series in Slovenia this week, racing her way to a 15th nation placing thanks to a beaten-up boat.

Jones said on her website that she had ordered a new kayak which she could not wait to paddle, at the expense of her old faithful.

"My kayak at the moment is being held together by duct tape and is in desperate need of an ultimate repair job," she said.

After taking up the sport at age 14 as a student at Otumoetai College, Jones quickly took to the sport which sees competitors navigate over a course containing whitewater rapids.

For the past few months, she has based herself in Nottingham, home of the British slalom team. She secured an Olympic spot for a New Zealand kayak at the Oceania championships in Australia in March.

"For me, the sky is the limit," she said yesterday. "I've always made a total effort even when the odds seemed entirely against me."

Her ultimate goal is to win in London 2012.

Olympic selector Barry Maister said he was excited by Jones' prospects. "Canoe/kayak slalom is a thrilling sport and she's a trailblazer for us," he said.

David Luoni of Slalom New Zealand said Jones' selection was a great boost for the sport.

Making it to the top of the sport was tough. "We are entirely self-funded and we are in a European-centric sport," said Luoni. "Most of the top competition is in Europe so the cost is a challenge. We can't afford the full time administrators or high performance programmes that other sports can either, so to overcome those hurdles is impressive."

Two New Zealand men have competed in the canoe/kayak slalom. Owen Hughes went to Atlanta and Donald Johnstone went to Barcelona.

- NZ Herald

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