In the space of a year, Tauranga's canoe slalom star Luuka Jones has gone from a half-drowned, last-placed wreck to an Oceania C1 silver medallist.

Just 15 months after adding the C1 discipline to her arsenal, she's now within touching distance of the sport's undisputed queen, Jess Fox, having finished second to the Australian at the Oceania championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland on Monday.

Jones was just 2.71secs behind Fox; a far cry from the 2017 final at the same venue when Fox won by a massive 13secs and the Kiwi rolled after missing a gate and finished more than 6mins off the pace after all her time penalties were added up.

"Last year, I nearly drowned in the C1 and was basically just trying to make it to the bottom upright," Jones lamented.

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"This year, to come second and to be right in the mix was really good — any race where I'm getting closer to Jess is a good race and I've still got a bit of time until the Tokyo Olympics to keep improving in C1 and hopefully not drop off too much in K1."

Her C1 improvement saw her make a series of world cup finals last year, although she saved her best result for a historic fourth-placing in the K1 at the world championships in France.

Fox and Jones both picked up touches in the final, with Fox clocking 109.42secs and Jones 112.13, while another Australian, Rosalyn Lawrence, was third in 116.39.

It was a relief for Fox, who missed a gate in yesterday's K1 final — ironically, so did Jones — and ended up eighth.

It was a good day for the Australian team, with Lucien Delfour holding off defending champion Michal Smolen (United States) to win a tight men's K1 final.

The top six men all posted clean runs, with Delfour's 88.89sec effort just 0.04secs in front of Smolen, with Mathieu Biazizzo (France) 0.39secs further back.

The fairytale finish was nearly provided by Tauranga's Jack Dangen, the only New Zealander to make the final.

The 19-year-old has only come back into the sport after having a year off to start his building apprenticeship but posted the fastest qualifying time at last week's New Zealand Open and backed it up in style this week, finishing seventh.

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It could've been even better too, picking up a touch on gate 15 which dropped him back a spot and cost him momentum.

"I had a really good first run last week and tipped over some of the top guys so I knew that I could do it," Dangen said.

"I've been going pretty fast in training, though there's a difference between going fast in training and laying it down in a race. I can nail moves way better on the river but the next step is taking it on to the course, at a more consistent level."

He'll now wait to see whether he's made the New Zealand senior team, which will be confirmed this week to compete in world cups and world championships this year.

Mistakes kept New Zealand's other leading paddlers out of the final, with Mike Dawson, Zack Mutton, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert filling spots 13-16 after the semifinals.