Whew! Jones paddles into semis

Bay of Plenty kayaker Luuka Jones Olympic squeezed into the semi-finals of the K1 canoe slalom today. Jones recorded a time of 109.23s, including six penalty seconds in the first of her two runs. Her speed was good, but the penalty seconds pushed her back to 10th place, with 15 to qualify. However, the 23-year-old, who has spent much of the past few years based in England, had a second run to forget. She missed three gates and incurred 152 penalty seconds. That meant she was left hoping her first-run performance held up well enough to qualify her for Thursdays semi-finals. As it turned out, she had done just enough - the 16th competitor, Ana Satila of Brazil, had a total of 110.83s. It was very nerve-wracking, said canoe slalom manager Les Dawson. Luuka was on the cusp. We were just hoping no-one came through late with a blinder and pushed her out of the top 15. Luckily that didnt happen. Dawson said Jones was capable of paddling a lot better than she showed today. Its the Olympics, so there was a bit of nerves there. And the nature of the sport means unexpected things can happen. But having got through by the skin of her teeth, shell be looking to take advantage in the semi-finals. The field includes the worlds best canoe slalom paddlers. Jones is ranked just 54th in the world, so she is mixing in elite company. This is her second Olympic campaign. She finished last of 21 paddlers in Beijing in 2008, when she was just 19.
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