Jones in French con­nec­tion to Games

Weekend Herald - - WHAT’S ON - Ca­noe­ing David Leg­gat

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.

Pic­ture / Brett Phibbs

Luuka Jones will im­merse her­self in ca­noe­ing in France with an eye to the Tokyo Olympics.

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