Jones in French connection to Games
Luuka Jones is keen to brush up on her French.
She’s also determined to push herself to discover if she can cut the Olympic canoe slalom discipline in a bid to pursue success in two events at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
So the Rio Olympic silver medallist i s basing herself in Pau, near the Pyrenees in the south of France, for several months to immerse herself in the sport. The fact that it’s also the venue for this year’s world championships in September is, er, not exactly coincidental.
Hence the French, which she studied at school but is now endeavouring to brush up.
“I’m battling a bit but I am trying. I should definitely have paid more attention in school,” she said with a laugh.
Jones has company on her European summer. Fellow Olympian Mike Dawson, up and coming under- 23 paddler Finn Butcher from Alexandra and her coach Campbell Walsh are with her and this weekend she is in La Seu d’Urgell for a Pyrenees Cup event, a forerunner to the World Cup competitions.
Her t wo fellow Rio medallists, Spain’s gold medallist Maialen Chourraut and Australian Jess Fox are there, too, which should provide some quality, low key competition.
She’s competing in Pau next weekend, then has World Cup meets in Prague and Augsburg, Germany on June 16 and 23, possibly another World Cup meet in Ivrea, Italy on September 1 — a week before the World Cup final in La Seu d’Urgell, which is the final leadup to the worlds.
Laughter comes easily to the Tauranga 28- year- old these days. Life is good. The podium in Rio last year was reward for years of hard yards at her third Olympics.
She dipped her toes into C1 racing late last year at the Wero Whitewater venue in Manukau with pleasantly surprising results. The difference is whereas kayaking involves sitting and using a paddle with two blades, the canoe has one blade and the athletes kneel on one knee. Comfortable it’s not.
“I have picked it [ canoeing] up a lot faster than I thought I would. I’m not really fast but I’m capable and it’s a good platform to build from,” she said. “It’s an interesting approach doing two classes because you can only do a certain number of training sessions per week so you try and find the balance of not compromising K1 but still spending enough time in C1 to develop and get to a good level.”
Jones i s on a Prime Minister’s scholarship and while she’s not parking up in five star hotels around Europe there’s enough to give more volume to the work she can do.
“We pay for our accommodation in Pau, as if we were living there. We’re renting an apartment but everything else is covered. It’s a huge help, to just be able to focus on kayak and not have to work and have that little extra support.”
Jones now has support in a range of ways from High Performance Sport New Zealand such as a nutritionist, physio, psychologist and strength and conditioning advice.
K1 remains her core event and she’s not insisting she’s a certainty to attempt both in Tokyo. But it’s a nice challenge, and brings more interest to the sport for Jones.
“This is very much an experimental year. Next year, hopefully I can build on what I’ve learned this year and make a decision.
“Kayaking is still my main event and if it’s being compromised and I’m not feeling I’m giving it a good enough go I’ll probably just do K1 again.
“But I’m loving the challenge. It’s quite motivating. From a mental point of view it’s quite interesting racing both classes — and it really fills out the weekend.”
There’s that laugh again.
Luuka Jones will immerse herself in canoeing in France with an eye to the Tokyo Olympics.