Luuka Jones produced the performance of a lifetime to win a silver medal in the women’s canoe slalom today.
Jones was wearing bib No 13, but it certainly wasn’t unlucky for her.
The 27-year-old from Tauranga qualified seventh of 10 from the morning semi-finals and then set herself for the big one in the final.
“I made a mistake in the semi-final run, but I knew how to rectify it. I’ve been concentrating all week on my processes and not thinking about the outcome. I’ve tried to stay composed and calm, and it was like that going into the final.”
Jones was superb in the final, clocking 101.82s, with no time penalties. Her time, put up early, withstood all challengers except Spaniard Maialen Chouorraut of Spain, who whizzed through in 98.65s. The bronze medallist was Australia Jessica Fox.
She said the atmosphere on the start line was incredible. “The crowd is there and cheering and you finish your run and they're all cheering. It was just amazing.”
Not surprisingly, Jones was elated afterwards. “I’m just so happy it’s hard to explain. It feels surreal and is still sinking in,” she said as the realisation of her achievement hit home.
This is her third Olympics – she was eliminated in the heats in Beijing in 2008, and was a semi-finalist in London in 2012 – so she deserves credit for sticking with her sport.
It’s not a major sport in New Zealand and she has had to learn to be very self-reliant. One of the things she and the New Zealand men’s representative, Mike Dawson, did was to spend a lot of time at the Rio course in the build-up to the Olympics.
She said that familiarity was very helpful during the games competition.
“In the final, I hit all my targets. It was a really good run. I left it all out there and just bared my teeth. I don’t think I could have gone any faster.”
Watching the New Zealand flag being raised in her honour was a huge sensation, she said.
“I was so proud. You think of all your friends and family and supporters. Hopefully this will give our sport a big boost back home.”Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Luuka Jones Mike Dawson Canoe/Kayak - Slalom