Adventurer Mike Dawson is immune to easy options.

So it proved as he paddled down the man-made rapids to 10th in the K1 canoe slalom final at the Rio Olympics. He improved on his 15th place at the London Games.

The 29-year-old posted a time of 91.47s and collected no penalty points in his semi-final. He could not match that in the final, recording 93.07s.

"I knew it [the final] was going well for the first couple of splits but I caught a bit of water and it started to slip away.


"It's not often that there are no 15s penalties with guys trying to cut lines around the poles and missing gates. You've got to read the flow of water and stay on top so you don't end up swimming. It showed the quality of the athletes racing."

Britain's Joseph Clarke won in 88.53s. The Brit trained on the Whataroa River in April when Dawson filmed segments for his rival's Olympic campaign footage.

Dawson is no robot manufactured via a sporting production line. He even wrote and sold his own cookbook in an effort to raise the $40,000 he needed to get to Rio.

He knows the cost of pursuing his Olympic dream and was willing to pay the price. He is fond of citing a mantra from American Sterling Hayden's book Wanderer: "Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"

Dawson topped qualifying at last year's world championships in Britain, but slipped to 28th in the semifinals. That effort qualified New Zealand for the Games, but the gaffe eliminated his performance enhancement grant, a decision he accepted as fair.

He needed to sell 2000 copies of Eat Like the Locals: Healthy Recipes From All Over the World to meet his shortfall.

Dawson is accustomed to more daunting adventures than the Olympics. Last October he faced a dilemma of whether to risk his life paddling over a 35m waterfall or confront a machete-armed bloke running towards him down a river embankment in Angola.

He chose the latter and eventually had dinner with him.

"We discovered he was warning us. He was terrified we would kayak off the waterfall."
An open mind is essential in Dawson's business, and the plan after the Olympics is to go higher. . . in the direction of K2 to be precise. He intends to paddle the Indus River near the Karakoram mountain range spanning the borders of India, Pakistan and China. It's the modern equivalent of Ed Hillary's 1977 Ocean to the Sky jetboating expedition up the Ganges.

"We'll be in north Pakistan, where the Indus is a key corridor as the biggest river on the Subcontinent. It'd be cool to go to those places because there's a lot of misunderstanding about the cultures and the people. We can go there as explorers and share their story while kayaking."

Dawson is in the business of creating memories. The Rio effort will rank high in his personal pantheon.

Read about his back story here.