Otago paddler elated by international form

Alexandra paddler Finn Butcher on his way to 13th in the men's K1 at the canoe slalom World Cup...
Alexandra paddler Finn Butcher on his way to 13th in the men's K1 at the canoe slalom World Cup in Slovakia yesterday.PHOTO: MARIAN TRIZULIAK PHOTOGRAPHY
Alexandra kayaker Finn Butcher was just 2cm away from another canoe slalom milestone at the second world cup event of the season in Slovakia yesterday.

The Alexandra paddler finished 13th in the semifinals of the men's K1 - a personal best - with only a slight touch on gate 21 keeping him out of the final.

His performance capped a dream fortnight for the eight-strong New Zealand team. Luuka Jones picked up silver in the women's K1 over the weekend, Callum Gilbert finished fifth in the men's K1 last week in London and teenager Hannah Thomas was 21st in the women's C1 yesterday.

Butcher's semifinal run of 92.55sec was just 3.69sec behind top qualifier Hannes Aigner (Germany), and only 1.20sec outside the top 10 who made the final.

The two-second penalty proved the difference.

"I was gutted about missing the final but fizzing about how my paddling went.

"I guess you could say we have turned a corner and we really think we belong with the best in the world now, which is a massive step," Butcher said.

"My semifinal run pretty much went exactly how we had planned, although I had to catch up to myself a little bit through gates 18, 19 and 20 and that probably put me into 21 with not quite the dynamic I would've liked.

"Even then, there was only about 2cm in the touch - it was just so fast down the bottom drop and you're jumping into a strong eddy so you have to be careful where you place your boat."

Butcher said the performances of Jones and Gilbert in particular fired him up. He also credited New Zealand coach Pierre Labarelle with taking his mental game to another level.

The demanding Bratislava whitewater course caused havoc with the favourites, and first-time medal winners dominated the final day.

Slovakia's Andrej Malek thrilled the home crowd by winning the men's K1, his first medal.

The third ICF canoe slalom world cup starts this weekend in Slovenia.

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