First Frames: See the special places, faces that led kayaker Luuka Jones to Olympic glory

From crushing cans at an adventure park in Tauranga to crushing the competition at the Rio Olympics - New Zealand's top female slalom kayaker has spent over 20 years with a paddle in her hands.

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The Olympic Silver medallist made a fateful move when she was 10 and she hasn't looked back since. Source: 1 NEWS

But Luuka Jones’ journey may not have happened at all had it not been for a very special couple and a very special place.

The place was more like a second home, and the people a second family.

When the Olympic silver medallist moved next door to a kayaking adventure park as a 10-year-old, she did anything to be involved in the fun.

“On the weekend I would just wander down to the park and scrub some toilets, crush cans,” she said.

Soon, those strolls to the park began to have purpose with Jones working in exchange for kayaking lessons, meaning it wasn't long before playtime became competitive.

“I remember watching Sarah Ulmer (cyclist) win her gold medal and that was the moment I was like, ‘man, it would be so cool to compete at the Olympic Games’,” she said.

“Just to represent the country in front of the world and to stand on the podium."

It took her three Olympics, but in 2016 she finally achieved that goal and two people she immediately thanked were Barbara and Barry Anderson – the couple she met as a youngster who would foster her love of kayaking at Waimarino.

“Our darling Luuka was a little girl when she first shifted into that house,” Barbara said.

“She would come down here across the paddocks and down to Waimarino where she learnt her kayaking skills with Barry.”

The lessons didn’t stop just there though.

“Barry taught me how to dance, how to back a trailer,” Jones admitted.

All those lessons were warranted though, with Jones spending every day possible at the park.     

“The commitment that Luuka showed - she showed that from a very young age – and teaching her the basics, she caught on,” Barry said.

“[I told her] ‘you know you'll go places and you'll be going to the Olympics one day if you keep that up’, and she kept it up.

“So she went to Beijing, she went to London and she got her medal in Rio and we were just overjoyed.”  

The Andersons have a framed card Jones sent them after her triumph in 2016 which the couple said still brings tears to their eyes.

If all goes to plan in Tokyo, there could be another card to frame too.