Pairs Olympics: Rio silver medallist Luuka Jones named in NZ team for fifth Games in canoe slalom

Veteran slalom kayaker Luuka Jones has been selected to represent New Zealand in her fifth Olympics at Paris in July/August.

Jones,  35, finished 21st and last at Beijing 2008, but improved to the semi-finals at London four years later and won a silver medal at Rio 2016. At Tokyo 2020, she contested both kayak and canoe disciplines, finishing sixth in the former. 

Despite her long record of success in the sport, including a 2019 world championship bronze medal, Jones achieved the first World Cup victory of her career just last October in kayak cross, a new event at the Paris Games that pits paddlers in head-to-head racing.

Luuka Jones contest kayak slalom at Tokyo 2020.
Luuka Jones contest kayak slalom at Tokyo 2020. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's like a demolition derby," she said. "It's really physical - you're jostling for position the whole way down the course, there is so much going on and it's really exciting.

"We grew up paddling plastic boats and being out on rivers in New Zealand, so we're kind of used to that discipline already."

Jones joins Olympic gold medallists Dame Valerie Adams (shot put) from 2004-20 and Barbara Kendall (sailboard) from 1992-2008 among NZ women to attend five Olympics.

"To be going to my fifth Olympics is crazy," said Jones. "It's something I never dreamed of as a kid, but I'm extremely grateful for the career that I've had and the experiences that I’ve had."

Meanwhile, Finn Butcher will make his Olympic debut at Paris, after he was reserve for Tokyo. He earned a quota spot by finishing 13th in last year's K1 world championship and 11th in kayak cross. 

"It's pretty special for me," said Butcher. "It's going to be amazing to go to the Olympics, and represent my community and all the people who've helped me on my journey.

"To have the fern on my chest is going to be unreal."