Tokyo Olympics 2020: Canoe slalom racer Luuka Jones eyeing higher podium finish

Kiwi canoe slalom racer Luuka Jones will start her road to the Olympics in earnest this weekend at the Oceania Championships.  

After claiming a silver medal at Rio 2016, Jones hopes to go one better at her fourth Games, battling an old trans-Tasman rival to do so. 

She admits she's carrying some weight of expectation to Tokyo. 

"I have a lot of time to keep improving before the Games as well, but there's definitely an expectation and I didn't have that in Rio." 

Standing in her way is old rival and friend, Australian Jess Fox, who won bronze four years ago.  

"I think back in Rio and how special it was to share the podium with her, and to be New Zealand and Australia side by side," says Fox. "It was sisterhood in a way." 

The pair have their first major competition of the season in Auckland. 

After both provisionally qualifying for Tokyo, it's a chance to test the waters six months out from the Games. 

"I think the whole world will be watching this race and the Australian Open to see how we're going," says Fox. 

Says Jones: "I have a lot of respect for Jess, but there's a rivalry... we're both trying to win the Oceania championships." 

Jones has more experience on her side and Tokyo will leave her just one shy of boardsailer Barbara Kendall's record of five Olympics. 

These may be her toughest challenge yet, with Jones also racing the single-paddle C1, as well as her usual double-paddle K1 race.  

"Last year, especially, was quite a battle for me in C1 and I did have to consider if I wanted to do both in Tokyo, but I feel like I'm back." 

Two events for two old foes, who will battle for trans-Tasman bragging rights come July.