Gilbert stars as NZ kayakers qualify

Kiwi kayaker Callum Gilbert has continued his rich vein of form, qualifying second-fastest in the K1 at the ICF junior and U23 canoe slalom world championships in Krakow, Poland, overnight.

The Tauranga paddler was one of three New Zealanders to move through to the semifinals on the first day of individual racing on the Kolna slalom course, with fellow under-23 teammates Kensa Randle and Jack Dangen also making it through qualifying.

Gilbert's effort was easily the highlight, however, as he posted a 93.53sec time - which included a touch and 2sec penalty on Gate 16 - to be just behind leading qualifier and 2018 European K1 champion David Llorente (Spain) and ahead of a clutch of Olympians and world age group champions. It's the third successive year Gilbert has made the under-23 semifinals.

It continued Gilbert's fabulous season, after picking up New Zealand's best-ever K1 men's result - a fifth - at the opening world cup of the season in London.

Dangen, meanwhile, also qualified for the semifinals in his first run, with a 98.45sec effort leaving him 22nd and comfortably inside the top-30 who progressed from the first round. His run included 4secs' worth of penalties, however, and his raw time of 94.45 would've been quick enough for seventh overall.

In contrast, Central Otago paddler Randle just squeezed into the semifinals in the final qualifying spot, after finishing 10th in her repechage run.

She was 34th after her fourth run and picked up 8secs' worth of touches in her repechage but still had the speed to finish 10th with a 115.65sec run. Without the touches, she would've finished third in the repechage and her time would've made the top-15 in her first run too.

Her teammate Courtney Williams was also left lamenting touches - she was 26th after the first heat and finished 16th in the repechage after touching three gates, where a clean run would've seen her through.

Callum Aitken was the other Kiwi in action, finishing 57th in his first run in the men's K1 and 23rd in his repechage.

Otherwise, the day was dominated by Czech paddlers, qualifying quickest in three of the four races contested and winning the only gold medal on offer in the junior mixed C2 final.

New Zealand's best under-18 paddlers are in action tonight, with junior K1 and C1 heats.

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