Frenchman Boris Neveu gave hometown fans a taste of what they might expect at next year’s Olympic Games by storming to victory in the men’s kayak cross final in Paris on Sunday.

New Zealand’s Luuka Jones, who is set to compete in her fifth Olympic Games next year, won her first ever world cup gold medal by taking the honours in the women’s kayak cross final.

A capacity crowd made the most of the perfect weather by lining the banks of the Vaires-Sur-Marne whitewater stadium to experience the newest Olympic sport, which will make its Games debut next year.

And they did not leave disappointed, with action aplenty and a gold medal for Neveu in the final.

“Today was a good day, finally,” Neveu said.

“Today the crowd was just crazy, and they pushed me on each run. It was my last chance of the season, and I didn’t miss it, so it’s a perfect day finally because to win at home it is quite special and it’s very good for me.”

New Zealand’s Finn Butcher took silver, and Austria’s Felix Oschmautz the bronze.

New Zealand Luuka Jones Paris 2023

It was a big day for Team New Zealand, with Jones displaying perfect kayak cross technique throughout the lead-up races, and holding that form to defeat Great Britain’s Kimberley Woods and Australia’s Jessica Fox.

Incredibly it was the first ever world cup gold medal for Jones in a career which has spanned five Olympic cycles. It also comes after missing most of the 2022 season with Covid-related illness.

“I’ve waited a long time for this, but it feels good,” Jones said.

“It’s my first world cup gold in over ten years of racing, and I think considering the year I had last year it’s been amazing. I didn’t expect it to be honest, I just went through the rounds and I had a really good plan, so I guess it just happened.

“I feel healthy now, and if anything I’m just grateful to be back and grateful to be healthy. It feels quite surreal because I didn’t want to focus on trying to make five Olympics , I just wanted to perform at the world championships. If anyone had told me this when I was young I wouldn’t have believed them.”

The silver medal for Woods allowed her to leapfrog Italy’s Stefanie Horn to take the overall world cup title for 2023, to add to the world championship gold she won last month.

“It’s been such a long season, so to come away with this shows the consistency I’ve had, and when I’m in the final I’m really out there to go and get them, so to be world champion this year and overall world cup winner, I’m really excited for next year,” Woods said.

“This is so my personality, I’m very aggressive, I love it and it’s very instinctive. You never know what’s going to happen and I love it. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it does, thankfully its been working for me so far.”

Jones jumped from ninth into overall second with her win on Sunday, while Australia’s Jessica Fox added a fifth medal to her collection from the weekend by finishing third overall in the women’s kayak cross.

In the men’s overall standings world champion Joe Clarke held on to the number one spot, despite not making Sunday’s final.

“Obviously I would have liked to fight it out in that final and challenge for another medal to show the class that I’ve had this season in kayak cross, but it wasn’t to be this time,” Clarke said.

“But to still win the overall title shows the level I’ve had throughout the season in the other world cups.

“It’s the fight I think, not wanting to be beaten. I’m so competitive. In slalom its you versus the course, but for this its you versus somebody else, so just seeing someone there makes you push that little bit harder.”

Neveu jumped from outside the top ten into second place overall, while Australia’s Tim Anderson finished third.

RESULTS

WOMEN’S KAYAK CROSS

  1. JONES Luuka  (NZL)
  2. WOODS Kimberley (GBR)
  3. FOX Jessica (AUS)

MEN’S KAYAK CROSS

  1. NEVEU Boris (FRA)
  2. BUTCHER Finn  (NZL)
  3. OSCHMAUTZ Felix (AUT)

FINAL KAYAK CROSS WORLD CUP STANDINGS

WOMEN

  1. WOODS Kimberley (GBR) 229 points
  2. JONES Luuka (NZL)  204
  3. FOX Jessica (AUS) 194

MEN

  1. CLARKE Joseph (GBR) 189
  2. NEVEU Boris           (FRA) 171
  3. ANDERSON Timothy (AUS) 161

Pics by Damiano Benedetto

France Boris Neveu kayak cross Paris 2023

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