Cook Islands canoe slalom paddler Jane Nicholas started her Olympic year with a fantastic third place finish at the New Zealand Open over the weekend.
Nicholas, who qualified for a place at the Tokyo Games this year, had a clean run in both her semi-final and final.
The 27-year-old finished just behind 2016 New Zealand Olympic silver medallist Luuka Jones and top Frenchwoman Camille Prigent in the women’s K1 final on the Mangahao River near Shannon.
Nicholas produced some smooth paddling with great lines on the tricky finals course.
Although she lost a few seconds dropping a bit low in the eddy at the white water near the bottom of the course, the other 90 per cent of her run ensured her medal placing ahead of higher ranked international paddlers Martina Wegman (Netherlands) and Nuria Vilarrubla (Andorra) who have both already qualified for the Olympics.
Nicholas said she was pleased with her performance.
“I was happy with my performance in the weekend. I was aiming for the podium but there was tough international competition with a number of the women going to the Olympic Games over here in New Zealand competing so still had to lay down a good race,” she said.
“I’ve been training full time in Auckland so feels rewarding to have a good result and some positive reinforcement.”
The Auckland-based paddler is training on the artificial Vector Wero White Water course, which has similarities to the Tokyo venue.
She has given up her full-time job as a doctor to concentrate on her Olympic preparation.
Her next race for the season is the Oceania Championships which will be held in Auckland from February 1 to 3. Following that, she will join a huge contingent of international paddlers in Sydney for the Australian Open later in the month.
Nicholas said next weekend’s Oceania Championships would have “even tougher field of competition”.
Depending on her fundraising, she will then join the other qualified internationals on three training camps on the course in Tokyo during May, June and July.
Nicholas secured her Olympic spot after her results at the World Championships last year.
Her brother Bryden should have his K1 men’s Olympics spot confirmed after the Oceania event.
The 2020 Olympic Games will be held from July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo with preliminary events in some sports beginning on July 22. The canoe slalom competition will be held from July 26 to 31.