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Otago paddler Finn Butcher may not have made it to Tokyo, but his results in Prague are worth bragging about.

Butcher put on a winning canoe slalom performance in the Czech Republic last week, charging to victory in a world-ranking race against a star-studded field.

“It’s quite hard to beat the Czechs at home, so to have a previous world champion, the current European champion and current under-23 champion in the final and come out on top was amazing,” the former Alexandra man said.

“World-ranking races are basically a step down from a world cup. They are open entry, and this was one of the first major ones in Europe since the start of the Covid pandemic, so the start line was massive.

“It was fantastic to get on the start of a major international race again and catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time.”

Butcher has been based in Prague since the start of June and having spent so much time on the course there, he felt right at home for the world-ranking race.

The sport is famously fickle, as paddlers deal with variables on the course from day to day, but he said he was discovering the good “flow” he had lacked since Olympic selection finished at the start of last year.

He was 16th after the first run of the heats, then qualified seventh of 10 paddlers for the final.

“I was using the race to keep testing some mindset strategies in preparation for the important races at the end of the season.

“I felt really calm and controlled off the start in the final. I had got some local knowledge of a couple of moves down the course that I needed to improve on and started off really well, nailing the first upstream.

“I just let the run flow from that, and allowed my timing to make me go fast.”

Butcher had the fastest clean run of the day, giving him confidence he has the speed to match world-class paddlers.

He has now relocated to Pau, in France, for the final two world cups of the campaign.

Then it will be off to Slovakia for the world championships starting on September 21.

“I’m loving paddling over here, and I think that’s the key to a good performance, so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the second half of the season.”