Canoing: Jones tests herself to limit by doubling her repertoire

By David Leggat

Olympic champion Luuka Jones says K1 remains her priority but she is excited by the technically demanding C1. Picture / Dscribe Media Services
Olympic champion Luuka Jones says K1 remains her priority but she is excited by the technically demanding C1. Picture / Dscribe Media Services

Life's been a whirl for Olympic silver medallist Luuka Jones in the last few months; and now she's about to get even busier.

The slalom paddler has given herself a fresh challenge with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 the long term goal: she's adding the C1 class to her K1 discipline.

The chief distinction between the two is K1 athletes sit in the canoe and work their way through a series of gates; in C1 the paddlers kneel while negotiating the ride and use one blade not two.

It is different from the flatwater canoe events, where athletes kneel on one knee and use one oar and the 28-year-old Tauranga athlete admitted it is gruelling.

"Both knees are inside the canoe and you have one paddle," Jones said. "It's a really uncomfortable position. My legs go completely numb and it takes 10 minutes to unseize themselves."

Which begs the question of why you'd put yourself through it.

"I find it really interesting. In C1 it's quite technical. Because you don't have as much power and can't rely on the other blade you have to be quite tactical in the lines you take."

And don't think this is the same as Olympic champion Lisa Carrington enlarging her flatwater repertoire, which led to a gold and bronze medals in Rio over 200m and 500m respectively.

That was a case of Carrington performing the same discipline but lengthening it. Jones is taking on a distinctly different challenge.

She's giving herself a couple of years working flat out and then will assess how she's travelling in terms of being seriously competitive in Tokyo.

K1, however, remains her premier event and with good reason.

Her Rio success gave New Zealand a stunning, unexpected medal and was an example of an athlete persevering through tough times and getting a brilliant reward.

"I'm really excited about it, just adds something interesting to what I'm doing. And it definitely makes me excited about next season."

She had always had an interest in the C1 class but laid off this year with Rio beckoning.

"But I thought after the Games I would like to take it on."

Her coach Campbell Walsh was impressed with her initial outing at the Whitewater XL event at the Wero complex in south Auckland this week.

"It was impressively good. It was better than I expected and probably better than she was expecting as well," he said.

"She can read whitewater, the physical demands are similar and it's just going to be learning those specific stroke patterns and gate techniques for one class to the other."

Jones quipped she doesn't know "where October and November have gone" in the post-Rio buzz.

Her first big outing, after this weekend's event will be at the Oceania championships, also at the Wero at the end of January. The world championships in Pau, France, and some World Cup outings in Europe beckon later next year.

It'll be a tough double up but Jones' CV suggests someone who doesn't easily back off a project she's set her mind on.

- NZ Herald

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