One of the first major international canoe slalom competitions for 2023 has been held in torrential conditions in New Zealand, with a strong turnout from athletes all over the world for the Oceania Championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland.

The competition had to overcome major flooding which caused massive damage throughout New Zealand’s biggest city in the lead-up to the championships. As a result no racing was possible before Sunday.

There was a further setback when the Australian team was forced to withdraw on the eve of the titles because they had a problem getting their boats to New Zealand.

Hannah Thomas celebrated Oceania titles in the women’s K1 and C1, while her New Zealand teammates Oliver Puchner (men’s C1) and Callum Gilbert (men’s K1) also celebrated becoming Oceania champions.

Of the international competitors, the French duo of Camille Prigent in the women’s K1 and Marjorie Delassus in the women’s C1 both showed good early season form with victories in their respective events.

Prigent finished ahead of Poland’s Klaudia Zwolinska and Delassus in the K1 final, while Delassus finished more than seven seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Thomas and Germany’s Marisa Kaup in the C1.

In kayak cross New Zealand’s 2016 Olympic silver medalist Luuka Jones celebrated her return to top level racing with victory over Zwolinska and Delassus, while another New Zealander, Finn Butcher, took out the men’s race over teammates Puchner and Finn Anderson.

Kayak cross will make its Olympic debut in Paris in 2024.

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