Distance study allows rapid rise for canoe champ

Finn Butcher competing at the 2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 1, Lee Valley Whitewater Centre, London. Photo credit: Philipp Reichenbach

Twenty-four-year-old Finn Butcher has been at home on the rapids since being introduced to competitive kayaking when he was a child.

The Dunedin-born, Alexandra-raised canoe slalom champion juggles training and competing with study. He’s currently completing a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise with Massey via distance.

After starting his studies at University of Otago, Butcher relocated to Auckland in 2016 and switched to studying via distance, so he could concentrate on his training.

“Making the move really allowed me to focus on canoe slalom and chase my dreams, and because of how accommodating the University is to high performance athletes, it really allowed me to have more flexibility and take a massive step in my sport,” he says.

“It was a pretty easy decision for me to study sport and exercise. It’s something that I've been super interested in since I was young. I love sport equipment, so after my canoeing career, I’m keen to explore the innovation, design and development of sport equipment.”

Butcher recently placed thirteenth at the 2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 2 in Bratislava, Slovakia, securing his spot at September’s crucial Senior Canoe Slalom World Championships in Spain, joining Massey business graduate and Rio Olympics silver medallist Luuka Jones.

His ultimate dream? “Winning an Olympic medal for New Zealand. So getting to Tokyo 2020 is a big goal of mine. The selection series for the spot for New Zealand starts at the World Championships, so in the short term I'm building up to that.”

Earlier this year Butcher was awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, which allows athletes to undertake tertiary study while pursuing elite level sport. The scholarship also means Butcher is automatically part of Massey’s Academy of Sport, which provides individually tailored assistance with balancing study and sport.

The former Dunstan High School student got into canoeing through family friends, and never looked back. “We always had kayaks at home, but I was taken to a novice slalom race in Alexandra with family friends when I was around eight-years-old and after that I was hooked. It's funny looking back now, because the people that were at that race are now such a huge part of my life. They’re my idols.

“I spend a lot of time overseas and in Auckland training and competing. I have so much gratitude for my community who gave me a start, and are still massively supportive in helping me achieve my dreams."

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