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Dawson relishes whitewater challenge

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/06/2016

Big Italian water holds no fears for Rio-bound paddler Mike Dawson, who heads an eight-strong New Zealand team at the first World Cup canoe slalom event of the season this weekend.

Dawson is relishing the chance to race on a channel in the Dora Baltea River in Ivrea, northwestern Italy, one of the few natural whitewater courses on the world circuit.

He said the heavy rapids, fed by early summer snow melt from Mont Blanc, have the New Zealand crew excited.

"It's definitely a lot bigger than the other competition venues, which makes it unique," Dawson said.

"It's fast and powerful, and it's going to be a lot of fun to race here. I used to race extreme events on this river, back in the day, so it's pretty cool to come here with a slalom buzz."

Dawson, who qualified for Rio at last year's world championships, will be joined in the men's K1 ranks by young guns Callum Gilbert and Finn Butcher, who both made break-through World Cup semifinals last season.

With Olympian Luuka Jones opting to miss the first-up event, Jane Nicholas and Anna Higgens will race the women's K1, with Nicholas doubling up in the C1 division.

Tauranga paddlers Patrick Washer and Ben Gibb complete the New Zealand squad.

Dawson will skip the second World Cup in Spain next week, where Jones and C1 paddler Kelly Travers will make their season debuts, with the entire New Zealand team lining up for World Cup 3 in France on June 17.

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