Bay of Plenty’s Luuka Jones will become a third-time Olympian when she represents New Zealand in the K1 canoe slalom events at the Rio Olympics this August.
The 26-year-old’s place as one of only two New Zealand competitors in the event was announced in April, much to the delight of Just Avocados, the Katikati-based company which is one of her sponsors.
Rio’s that way – Olympian Luuka Jones tries out Just Avocados’ 1955 Dodge Truck, which her sponsorship company uses as an eye-catching promotional vehicle.
“It’s wonderful news that Luuka has been selected and quite remarkable to think at just 26, this is will be her third Olympics,” says Just Avocados marketing director Steve Trickett.
Mike Dawson, also of the Bay of Plenty, will be Luuka’s team mate, competing in the men’s canoe slalom.
Steve says Just Avocados plans to ensure Luuka, Mike and the entire New Zealand Olympic team can receive a nutritional boost to their diets by air freighting trays of avocados to Rio for them to enjoy.
Last year Just Avocados, the Katikati-based avocado post-harvest and export company, formed a sponsorship partnership with Luuka appointing her its Avocado Ambassador.
As well as ensuring Luuka has a constant supply of her favourite fruit, Just Avocados also provided her with a 2015 VW Polo sign-written with the words “helping power Luuka Jones to the Rio Olympics” and fitted it with a roof rack for her kayak.
Luuka’s role while home in New Zealand involved visiting schools to talk about her sporting career and inspire young people to follow their dreams, whatever they are.
The relationship is an excellent fit because Luuka really does enjoy avocados and they play an important part in her diet.
“I love avocados on toast or in salads. They are a great food during training, before an event, and an avocado smoothie is an ideal recovery drink after competing.”
And, says Steve, Luuka is the ideal “brand ambassador” for the avocado company.
“She epitomises health and vitality and believes in good nutrition. She’s also a committed fan of avocados.”
Shortly before Luuka left for Europe in April to continue her training for the Rio Olympics, the Just Avocados management team caught up with her to wish her well.
Just Avocados managing director Andrew Darling hopes to visit Rio to see Luuka in action at the Olympics too.
“She is a remarkable young women and we are proud to be associated with her. While her immediate focus is on the Rio Olympics, Luuka also has plans for the future and the next Olympics.
“As well as being a top athlete she also has a degree in communications and Just Avocados would like to form an ongoing relationship with her,” says Steve.
Luuka’s love of water and kayaking was sparked when her family moved to Bethlehem, close to the Wairoa River. “I used to help out at Waimarino Adventure Park in return for kayaking lessons and went over my first waterfall in a kayak when I was about 14,” says Luuka.
At 18, to get better at her chosen sport, Luuka saved hard to move to Nottingham to train alongside the British kayaking team.
“Qualifying for Beijing in 2008 was a turning point for me. I was 19 years old, naive to the world of professional sport and totally inspired by the occasion.”
Following Beijing, Luuka joined the Waiariki Academy of sport in Rotorua, receiving sports science input for the first time and immersing herself in a fun and supportive athletic environment.
“This was integral in helping me qualify for and compete in the London Olympics. Following London, I received support from High Performance Sport NZ, enabling me to work with a full-time coach for the first time.
“This has made a huge difference and in two years I have gone from being in the top 30 in the world to finishing in the top 10 at the World Championships in 2014.”