Canoeing: Finn Butcher looking to break out of mentors shadow

For 15 years Olympic paddler Mike Dawson was the face of New Zealand's canoe slalom scene.

But his sudden retirement just two weeks ago has opened the door for the next generation.

Finn Butcher's competed on the World Canoe Slalom circuit for eight years.

But only now does he feel he's a genuine chance of representing New Zealand on the biggest stage.

"It's really exciting, It's such a cool prospect to be a part of the Olympic movement," Butcher told Newshub.

Lining up at an Olympics has been a realistic goal for Butcher since London 2012.

But that year just happened to see the emergence of Mike Dawson as the elite male paddler in New Zealand.

"It was always someone that you want to look up to and you want to try and be as good as him," Butcher said.

And with Dawson's decision to step away just over a year out from the Tokyo Games, it's almost surreal for Butcher to think he can replace him.

"We always think oh there's a spot there - because it's not yours until you take it," Butcher said.

His results on the world stage have so far proven he's the most qualified to do so.

A fourth-place finish at the Under-23 World Champs last year has been followed by fairly consistent results at World Cup level.

"It just motivates you more to try to get higher, try to get faster," Butcher noted.

Dawson believes the future is bright for the man stepping into his shoes.

"I think we'll see him being really competitive in Tokyo," Dawson said.

"One thing I love about Finn is his attitude - he's a genuine Kiwi dude, he's an amazing guy."

And now with an amazing opportunity to take his sport in New Zealand to the next level with the ultimate goal being a first Olympic gold.

"Now we've got to pick up the reigns and take it forward and keep it going."