Luuka Jones into semifinals of canoe slalom world championships in London
New Zealand kayaker Luuka Jones gave her Olympics hopes a boost by qualifying for the semifinals of the canoe slalom world championships in London.
Jones had the 19th-fastest time in the 67-boat field on Thursday (NZ time), putting her straight through to the weekend's semifinal.
The 26-year-old got off to a rocky start, picking up an early 2-second penalty on the tough Lee Valley whitewater course, but her time of 97.51s time was just good enough.
"I'm really happy I qualified in the end – I wouldn't say I was super-happy but it was enough at the end of the day," Jones said.
"I made a big mistake through the third and fourth gates and really had to adjust my line, then I hit a gate about a third of the way down, but you really need to be objective on this course and just keep going. You can't get caught up in the mistakes."
Jones finished just 0.06secs in front of Ukrainian Viktoriia Us to avoid the afternoon repechage round.
After struggling for consistency through the world cup rounds, Jones, who has been to the last two Olympics, found the perfect time to produce some strong form..
"I've been saving it all for this one. It makes a big difference – I would've been waiting around for three hours before the next run and it's mentally draining more than anything. Now I've got two days to readjust and correct a few things before the semifinal."
She can also relax and watch the other members of the New Zealand team, with C1 paddlers Ben Gibb, James Thwaites and Shaun Higgins in action along with and K1 men Mike Dawson, Callum Gilbert and Finn Butcher. The K1 paddlers need to finish in the top-15 nations to qualify a position at Rio de Janeiro, while the C1 canoeists need to place in the top-10.
Meanwhile, New Zealand-raised Cook Islands paddler Ella Nicholas was 51st in the first round with a 115.25sec time.
She was in good company, however, with defending world champion Australian Jess Fox also having to go through the repechage round after finishing the first heat in 38th spot.