It could hardly have gone any better for Great Britain’s paracanoe athletes who joined the canoe sprint action at the European Championships in Belgrade today. They quickly got off the mark winning four medals in the Va’a outrigger canoe events.
Emma Wiggs continued her strong start to the 2018 season from last month’s World Cup in Szeged, taking another gold in the women’s VL2, closely followed by teammate Jeanette Chippington in second.
Drawn in lane eight, she powered through the field from the start to collect her fourth European Championship title, winning in a time of 57.903, more than seven seconds faster than last year’s winner.
Wiggs previously won both the European and World VL2 titles in 2014, before deciding to focus on the kayak ahead of the sport making its Paralympic debut in Rio. However with the Va’a class now confirmed for Tokyo in 2020, Wiggs is juggling a heavy schedule to keep her options open.
A delighted Emma Wiggs said: “200m felt like a really long way today. The heat out here is quite debilitating and just trying to train through and not really tapering for Euros has made it quite tiring. I felt I hadn’t quite nailed the last part of the race but looking at the time I obviously did so I am really pleased!
It is credit to the programme that we are still so competitive in the Va’a. It was January 2015 when we decided to focus on kayak and we haven’t been in the boat since then until recently. It also shows that by training hard in one boat you can transfer some of it across to another. I was hesitant about getting back in the Va’a, as it is a really technical boat, so to not just be competitive, but faster than I have ever gone before is down to the training we are doing as a programme”– Emma Wiggs
Likewise, teammate Jeanette Chippington is also a previous World and European champion in the Va’a back in 2012 and 2013 and she too has decided to return to the boat she loves. However with a new Paralympic classification system in place for this boat, it sees her in the same classification as roommate Wiggs, unlike in the kayak.
Jeanette Chippington said: “I am really pleased with my race and to come away from the Europeans with a silver I am really chuffed. It was a tough race and I knew it would be close between me and Emma. There were also quite a lot of new faces here today and the Russian girl was giving me a run for my money, but I managed to hold her off.
“I love being back in the Va’a as you don’t have any stability problems like in the kayak and you can just dig in hard, so I feel like I can race without any worries. It gets tougher and tougher every year and I enjoy putting the work in, so to get a medal again in the Va’a after five years is an amazing feat.”
Looking forward to tomorrow’s kayak race she added: “If I get a good start which I didn’t at the World Cup I will be in the thick of it. I need to put the World Cup race behind me and I really hope that I can race as well as I have been training. If I can do that I will do well.”
And whilst the backbone of paracanoe success for Great Britain over the last six years is showing it is still in rude health, the new faces on the squad have equally taken their chance to shine.
The second European gold for GB today came courtesy of David Phillipson who is in only his second international racing season this year. A bronze at the World Cup in Szeged last month proved the perfect springboard and a confident performance saw him leap forward today to qualify for his first European final and win gold by more than a second from Tomas Mozdzierski of Poland.
Speaking after the race he said: “Yes I’m absolutely buzzing that I got the win! Particularly coming from this position (9th in the semi final) at last year’s Euros, I never thought I would be European Champion this year. All my hard work has paid off and I cannot thank my team enough.”
There was also a brilliant bronze medal for Jack Eyers, who is making his European Championships debut and having not made the final at the recent World Cup, can be rightly delighted by what he has accomplished in Belgrade today.
There was also a strong showing by the British men in the kayak heats all qualifying through to tomorrow’s final.
Paralympic bronze medallist, Nick Beighton was in confident mood and posted the second fastest heat time of the day, behind reigning European Champion Markus Swoboda of Austria, who looked in formidable form, almost a second ahead.
After the excitement of becoming European Champion in the Va’a, Dave Phillipson had to get back in his boat for the men’s KL3 semi final. Buoyed by his success a couple of hours earlier, he went all out and took the win to join Nick in tomorrow’s final.
Birmingham’s Rob Oliver and Northern Irelands Jonny Young also showed their European pedigree and gave solid performances to see them safely through to the men’s KL3 A final tomorrow.
Chloe Bracewell and Katie Reid were the only two canoe sprint paddlers in action today. Bracewell finished a creditable seventh in her first European C1 500m A final, whilst Reid qualified through to the women’s C1 200m A Final tomorrow.
Saturday results summary
C1W 200m - Katie Reid(Holme Pierrepont) Heats 4th Semi Final 2nd to A Final tomorrow
C1W 500m - Chloe Bracewell (Holme Pierrepont) A Final 7th
Women’s VL2 - Emma Wiggs (Independent) A Final 1st GOLD
Women’s VL2 - Jeanette Chippington (Longridge) A Final 2nd SILVER
Men’s VL3 - David Phillipson (Independent) Heats 1st A Final 1st GOLD
Men’s VL3 - Jack Eyers (Independent) Heats 1st A Final 3rd BRONZE
Men’s KL2 - Nick Beighton (Help for Heroes) Heats 1st to A Final Sunday
Men’s KL2 - David Phillipson (Independent) Heats 4th, Semi Final 1st to A Final
Men’s KL3 - Robert Oliver (Solihull) Heats 3rd to A Final Sunday
Men’s KL3 - Jonathan Young (Canoe Northern Ireland) Heats 3rd to A Final Sunday