New Zealand's top whitewater kayakers will have one eye on London as they head into this week's world championships in Slovakia.

A nine-strong Kiwi contingent is in Bratislava for the canoe slalom titles, with Beijing Olympian Luuka Jones and top extreme paddler Mike Dawson among those in with a chance of qualifying for next year's Olympics.

Dawson has endured a long season but is confident he can finish among the top 16 in his specialist K1 boat and seal an Olympic berth.

"I'm feeling pretty good and the main thing is just to keep focused leading into the qualification rounds and not get intimidated by the other nations or competitors.


"There are something like 120 men chasing 40 spots in the semifinals and then only 10 make the final this weekend, so it will be pretty fierce racing," Dawson said.

He is ranked 54th in the world but made the final at the world cup in Slovenia this year, finishing 10th.

He is joined in the men's K1 by fellow Bay of Plenty paddlers Aaron Osborne and Johann Roozenburg.

Jones is ranked 50th in the K1 women's division but she made the semifinals on the world cup series this year.

She is joined by Nikki Whitehead, Louise Jull, Brent Bastin, Ben Gibb and Shaun Higgins, who will be racing in the C1 canoe, with Gibb the highest ranked at 102nd.

More than 400 athletes from 50 countries will compete over the next week at the Water Sports Centre Cunovo.