Paris Olympics: Slalom kayaker Finn Butcher pays tribute to supporters who helped him earn NZ selection

Even the Auckland's Vector Wero Whitewater Park seems a long way from the irrigation dams at Alexandra and Finn Butcher's most grateful for those who got him this far.

“It means a lot.” Butcher tells Newshub, through tears.

The exhale after, as he fights back more, is evidence of that.

He's celebrating a maiden call-up to an Olympics, alongside Rio silver medallist Luuka Jones, who's heading to her fifth. She's someone he sees as a trailblazer for canoe slalom in New Zealand.

NZ Olympic slalom kayaker Ethan Butcher.
NZ Olympic slalom kayaker Ethan Butcher. Photo credit: Photosport

“It's nice.” said Jones, looking over her shoulder at the debutant. "Through Finn, I can kind of see things as if it's for the first time.

"It's really special."

Butcher barely believes what's happening, given how he started in the sport, training once a week on an irrigation farm at a cherry orchard, about 10 minutes' drive from his family home in Central Otago.

"I sort of fell in love," he reflected. "I just kept going more and more.

"Then I went to Dunedin for two years to study, but it got to the point where I went, 'Do I want to be good at paddling or finish my degree?’, so I transferred everything to correspondence."

That was clearly a smart move and he hopes to pay tribute to some of those who first got him involved.

As he looks down at a polaroid that will travel as part of an New Zealand Olympic Committee initiative, Butcher reflects on two important men in his life, who stand either side of him in the photo.

On the right is Gordon Rayner - Butcher regards his family as his own and describes him as a "local legend".

On the left is Alan Hoffman.

"He's not with us anymore," Butcher reveals and pauses. Again, the tears come.

"He was like, get shit done. He was the epitome of that.

"He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and they gave him 6-9 months. He ended up living for another 7-8 years."

Hoffman and Alexandra's approach to life will be front of mind for Butcher, come Games time.

"Just having that smalltown upbringing, I love going back. I'm going back tomorrow... frothing.

"We've kind of got that attitude of, like, 'Figure it out, get things done'. Not a chip on the shoulder, but from a smalltown, bottom of the world... come at me."

Watch out, Paris.