Central Otago slalom kayaker Finn Butcher (21) has his sights firmly set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
He is currently in Auckland and flies to Sydney tomorrow to train and then compete in the Australian Open, an international race being held at the Olympic kayak slalom course at Penrith.
“Finn has been competing internationally since he was at Dunstan High School and is proud of his roots and the input gained from mentors in the area, both at high school and within the kayaking community in Central Otago,” says supporter and Central Otago Whitewater Cub member Wendy Robertson.
“He is now into the four-year cycle leading to the next Olympics. Only one paddler from New Zealand can attend this event. It’s a pretty big investment in time and money to follow a dream for him.
“He now has some high performance sport funding and support – coaching, water time, mentoring etc. He is on a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, which also means he can continue with his university work extramurally while he is away in Europe.
“The level he is competing at now means that he trains intensively every day and attending a full-time uni course or trying to hold down a full job is impossible.
“Hopefully, the support funding will increase over the next years as he demonstrates continued upward progress,” she said.
“He is very humble and won’t sing his own praises, but he and his team-mate Callum Gilbert both are doing very well for their ages at the international level they are competing at.
“Finn will tell you, I hope, that he flies to Europe early May to live and train with his team-mate Luuka Jones, New Zealand silver medallist at the Rio Olympics in K1 women, then compete in world cups , the under 23 world champs and finally the senior world champs.”
Talking to Finn, he is modest and relaxed, but also focused, acknowledging that striving for anything but the top is second best.
“The Olympics in Tokyo is definitely a goal. To be in the Olympics would be a pretty special thing .. but I have aspirations on the goal list beyond just that, than just being an Olympian, so will have to see how things go,” he said.
“At this point in my career my goal is to be an Olympic champion. I am definitely working towards that.”
Finn says his biggest challenge this year is to achieve a strong position at the senior world championships in Pau in France in September. A good finish there could result in much needed extra funding.
This year he has been awarded a position as a tier three carded athlete with High Performance Sport New Zealand.
He is happy to get this support.
“We get support in terms of services .. physio, psych, conditioning .. but the sport as a whole has a lot more money, as we have gone from two to four carded athletes. This pays for water time in Auckland and overseas and coaching.”
Finn says the Central Otago White Water Club has had a huge impact on his success.
“Gordon Rainer [club president], he got me into it, really.
“The whole structure of the club is pretty special. The club is unique .. it’s pretty much a big family. At school there were five or six of us who were best mates and all we did was go kayaking. It’s [Central Otago] a great community.”