My name is Luuka (or Luka, Lukka, Luca, Lucca, Lucka … whichever way you choose to misspell it... just kidding) and I am a full time Canoe Slalom paddler, part time student, self acclaimed coffee connoisseur and especially proud kiwi.
Born & raised in Tauranga, my introduction to kayaking began at age 10 when my parents moved next door to a kayaking adventure park on the banks of the Wairoa river. Before long I was hooked on the sport and helping out at the adventure park in exchange for kayaking lessons.
If you want to be the best you should be among the best. At 18 years old in my pursuit to get better, I saved up my pennies and moved to Nottingham to train alongside the British kayaking team. Qualifying for Beijing in 2008 was a turning point for me. I was 19 years old, naive to the world of professional sport and totally inspired by the occasion. Watching fellow Kiwis achieve their goals, flying the flag & making NZ proud, I left with a new level of motivation & a goal to become a better athlete, to oneday achieve the same success in my own sport.
Following Beijing I joined the Waiariki Academy of sport in Rotorua, recieving sports science input for the first time and immersing myself in a fun and supportive athlete environment. This was integral in helping me qualify for and compete in the London Olympics.
Following London I recieved support from High Performance Sport NZ, enabling me to work with a full time coach for the first time and a special team of sport providers to help me improve in all areas of being an athlete. This has made a huge difference and in the last four years I have gone from being in the top 30 in the world to finishing in the top 10 at the World Championships in 2014 and 11th at the 2015 World Champs
This year I qualified for the Rio Olympics. I believe that every day is an opportunity to get better and my goal was to be sitting on the start line of the Olympics knowing I have left nothing to chance and nothing behind.
I am an athlete in an individual sport but for me my team is crucial. There have been so many people who have been critical in getting to this point in training & competing as a full time Canoe Slalom athlete. I could not do it without the support of my family, friends and sponsors. This is my team. To say I am grateful to them is is an understatement.
Through sport I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible people and form very special friendships. Of these people is my best mate Louise who showed me that every day was an opportunity to do something amazing. We grew up kayaking together, travelling Europe, training, racing and experiencing adventures. After slalom she continued to follow her love of paddling, travelling to incredible places and paddling beautiful rivers to fulfill her passion. In 2015 Lou left this world doing what she loved the most. She is my biggest inspiration to remember that life is to be enjoyed, that people are precious and that we need to make the most of the opportunities that we are presented with and find joy in the most simple things.
This year in Rio I went out and gave it everything, trusting that over 10,000 hours of training, preparation, planning and learning meant I was in the best shape of my life. I enjoyed every moment of the incredible opportunity to race on the world stage and represent my amazing country. To come away with the silver medal was a dream come true and one of the best moments of my life.
Thank you for your support!
Ko koe te awa, ko te awa koe
New Zealand Olympic Team 2016
11th World Championships, Great Britain 2015
10th World Championships, USA 2014
10th Tacen World Cup 2014
12th London World Cup 2014
8th World Cup overall ranking
14th London Olympics 2012
16th World Championships, Czech Republic 2013
13th World Cup Slovenia 2013
6 x National Champion
Beijing Olympian 2008
NZs first female Canoe Slalom Olympian