The eagerly awaited battle of the Brits reached a climax today at the Paracanoe World Championships in Portugal, with Emma Wiggs and Charlotte Henshaw giving a masterclass in the women’s K1 200m KL2. After just over 50 seconds of racing it was Henshaw that crossed the line in front to be crowned as the new World Champion, with Wiggs only 0.7 second behind her in second.
Charlotte, who only took up the sport in 2017 transferring from Paralympic swimming, had been closing the gap on Emma all year, taking silver medals at the World Cup and European Championships and then winning one of two races at the GB World Championship trials. Today the 31-year-old prevailed on the international stage as she competed in her first World Championships in the kayak, adding KL2 gold to the bronze she won yesterday in the va’a KL3.
Delighted with her win Charlotte said: “I always knew it was a possibility that I would win today as Emma and I have always had some good races, but I would never underestimate her given that she has won everything there is to win and is such an incredible athlete. It was more of a distant dream.
“I am really chuffed to be world champion. I came close in swimming a couple of times with world silver, so to say I am now world champion is pretty special.
“Our motto at British Canoeing is to succeed as one and I really do buy into that and I think Emma and I are testament to fulfilling that ethos. We have managed to develop a really good training relationship, pushing each other on, helping to produce performances that dominate the rest of the world at all the international events. The fact that we have to step it up at our national regatta every month and race the best in the world pushes us on and gets us ready to perform at events like this. I have great respect for Emma and the most important thing is that we are on the top two steps of the podium for GB.”
Emma Wiggs, a five-time back to back World Champion in this event was determined to try and make it six in a row and travelled to Portugal to defend her title despite a serious wrist injury which has curtailed her training over the last couple of weeks and which will require surgery when she returns to the UK.
However the Paralympic champion was the first to congratulate her teammate and said: “Injuries are part of sport and it is just one of those things and at least I have still been able to paddle so I am very lucky to be here. I did as best as I could, I was aware of it, but I am not going to use it as an excuse. It is just disappointing to have been aiming for this all year and not quite do it today. I will go home and get myself sorted and be back even stronger next year.
“I am genuinely chuffed to bits for Charlotte she has worked really hard and we have both worked hard pushing each other and we have done what we wanted and taken the top two steps of the podium. We just want to both push on and continue to make that gap between ourselves and the rest of the world even bigger and what we have done here is a huge credit to our staff team.”
Ian Marsden, a two-time World silver medallist also showed signs of coming back into form after a season disrupted by essential surgery. He finished 6th in the Men’s K1 200m KL1 class, with Italy’s Esteban Farias claiming gold.
21-year-old Chelsey Dixon can also be proud of her achievements this week. She made her first World Championship final where she finished ninth today and she will undoubtedly have benefitted from the experience of racing at this level.
Great Britain’s canoe sprint team also had eight boats in action at the regatta today as their heats got underway.
There were strong performances from Solihull’s Tom Lusty in the men’s K1 1000m, who has been making steady progress in this event over the last two years. He finished in a comfortable third place to go through to the semi final on Saturday and also qualified for tomorrow’s K2 1000m semi final with partner Daniel Johnson.
In the other Olympic events, Rebii Simon went safely through in the K1 500m, as did Katie Reid in the women’s C1 200m, whilst there were also successful heat performances for Chloe Bracewell in the C1 500m, Lizzie Broughton in the K1 1000m and Matt Bowley in the K1 500m.
Racing continues tomorrow from 0930hrs UK time and you can follow the action at https://www.canoeicf.com/canoe-sprint-world-championships/montemor-o-velho-2018
Women’s KL2 - Charlotte Henshaw (Independent) - A Final 1st GOLD
Women’s KL2 - Emma Wiggs (Independent) –A Final 2nd SILVER
Women’s KL3 – Chelsey Dixon (Independent) – A Final 9th
Men’s KL1 - Ian Marsden (Trentham) – A Final 6th
Men's K2 1000m - Tom Lusty (Solihull) & Daniel Johnson (Chelmsford) - Heats 7th to Semi Final on Friday
Men’s K1 500m – Matthew Bowley (Burton Phoenix) – Heats 7th to Semi Final on Friday
Men’s K1 1000m - Tom Lusty (Solihull) – Heats 3rd to Semi Final on Saturday
Men’s K2 200m - Trevor Thomson (Ealing) & Stelian Naftanaila (Nottingham) – Heats 7th; Semi Final 7th
Women’s K1 500m - Rebii Simon (Elmbridge) – Heats 3rd to Semi Final on Friday
Women’s C1 500m – Chloe Bracewell (Holme Pierrepont CC) – Heats 2nd to Semi-final on Friday
Women's K2 500m - Deborah Kerr (Strathclyde) & Emily Lewis (Worcester) – Heats 9th
Women’s K1 1000m - Lizzie Broughton (Richmond) – Heats 2nd to Semi Final on Friday
Women’s C1 200m – Katie Reid (Holme Pierrepont CC) – Heats 5th to Semi Final on Saturday