Great Britain’s Paracanoe team geared up for the start of the international season by going head to head with the Australian squad at the May Regatta, held at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham.
The Australian athletes have been training at Holme Pierrepont all week and competed at the regatta against the British team, in preparation for the ICF Paracanoe World Cup 1 in Szeged, Hungary on 18 – 20 May.
Paralympic, World and European Champion Emma Wiggs continued her fine start to the 2018 season with storming victories in two strong races in the women’s KL2 200m.
With all four athletes on the start line having claimed international medals in the last 18 months, it was set to be a series of exciting races.
Wiggs recorded impressive times of 51.04 and 51.55. In both races European silver medallist Charlotte Henshaw took second place, with World silver medallist Nikki Paterson third and Australian athlete Susan Seipel coming fourth.
In round one of the men’s KL3 200m event, it was Australian and Rio 2016 athlete Dylan Littlehales who took the victory with a time of 41.85.
The 18-year-old was pushed all the way by Rob Oliver (Solihull) and Jonny Young (CANI), with the British pair finishing close behind with less than half a second separating the three athletes.
In the second race Littlehales was once again was the victor (41.95), but only by two hundredths of a second, with Rio 2016 Paralympian Rob Oliver closing the margin in second place (41.97) and Jonny Young (43.41) finishing third.
Speaking after the races Rob Oliver said:
“I haven’t really tapered for it, so I just wanted to be in the mix. Being 0.02 seconds off is brilliant.
“I’m buzzing. Jonny was third in the world, Dylan was fifth, so to be in the mix with those two guys you know that you are on a good path, so if the weather’s warm it’s anybody’s race.”
In the men’s KL2 200m, there was a duel between two podium athletes from Paracanoe’s Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games.
Australia’s gold medallist and current World Champion Curtis McGrath claimed two race victories with quick times of 43.36 and 43.37.
Britain’s Nick Beighton, who claimed the bronze medal two years ago in Rio, finished in the runner-up spot, just a second and a half behind McGrath in both races.
Speaking after the second race Curtis Mc Grath said:
“It’s always great having somebody pushing you along and nice to have some competition, Nick is one of the world’s best and it would be nice to see him stepping up a few more notches on the podium.
“It’s the first time that Australia Paracanoe has been able to come over, so it’s nice to have that international competition to see where everyone else is at and be part of the regatta.”
In the women’s KL3 200m World Champion and Rio 2016 silver medallist Amanda Reynolds claimed the two victories over British athlete Chelsey Dixon.
Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ian Marsden sharpened up for the international season with two fine races in times of 52.85 and 54.30 in the men’s KL1 200m.
In the Va’a events, that have been added to the Tokyo 2020 paracanoe programme, Emma Wiggs was once again back on the water in the women’s VL2 200m, taking on current World Champion Susan Seipel.
Despite having limited racing experience in the Va’a, Wiggs was dominant in both races, recording times of 62.27 and 61.92 to defeat Seipel.
With four wins from four races Wiggs was naturally delighted with her performances and racing the Australian team:
“I’m really, really happy with that, because this is a stepping stone leading up to competitions later in the year. So really happy to come off the back of a busy training period and put down four victories is beyond what I could have expected.
“It’s been brilliant to have the Australian team over here and have a different vibe around the place and really just build on that natural competitiveness between the two countries. It’s great to have someone different to race against and to have a kind of edge to the competition which was really good.”
In the men’s VL3 200m Curtis McGrath also completed a clean sweep of four victories, comfortably taking both races.
There was also a titanic battle between the four British athletes competing, with Stuart Wood and Dave Phillipson claiming second and third place in race 1, with Phillipson moving into second place in race 2 and Martin Tweedie in third.
The wins for McGrath, alongside victories for Dylan Littlehales and Amanda Reynolds also ensured Australia claimed the inaugural Paracanoe ‘Ashes’ trophy, presented by Scott Simon - British Canoeing’s Paracanoe Head Coach.
The athletes will next be competing at the ICF Paracanoe World Cup 1, taking place in Szeged, Hungary on 18 -20 May.