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Paddlers Shine on First Regatta of the Season

British Canoeing’s paracanoe athletes put in some strong performances on day one of the opening regatta weekend at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham. 

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With some dry and calm racing conditions, the athletes battled for their place on the international team for the upcoming season, with European Championship spots up for grabs.

After winning the KL3 silver medal at the 2017 European Championships, Rob Oliver shone across both rounds of the Para KL3 200m, putting in a solid time of 43.66 as he looked to secure a place on the European Championship team. He was closely followed by 2017 World Championship bronze medallist Jonny Young on both occasions, with 0.26 seconds in it during round one, and just 0.18 seconds in round two.

Speaking after the races, Rob Oliver was delighted with the competitiveness to the weekend's racing.

"I am feeling really confident after the races. There was some really competitive racing today. I have done a lot of miles during the winter training months and it is really paying off. 

"I feel the fittest I have in years, it is just about getting that extra sharpness in from racing."

Rio 2016 bronze medallist Nick Beighton triumphed on both runs in the KL2 class with times of 46.58 and 47.63.

In round one of KL1-3 Kayak 200m women’s event , Grand Slam Champion Emma Wiggs gave a solid performance as she looked to book her spot on the European Championships team. She got off to a strong start and lead for the entirety of the KL2 race, despite talent transfer athlete Charlotte Henshaw pushing her the whole way, and finishing just 0.51 seconds ahead.

In round two, Emma once again lead from the line, but Charlotte Henshaw pushed the 2016 Paralympic Champion all the way, again just half a second separated them.

Jeanette Chippington, who also secured the Grand Slam last year, put in two good times in the KL3 class with 1:02.04 and 1:03:27 as she looks to defend her European Championship title in Belgrade later this year.  

Elsewhere, there were some impressive displays amongst the crew boat heats as athletes looked to put a good performance in ahead of Sunday’s crew boat selection finals.

In the K2 Men’s U23 and Senior Open 1000m, nominated crew boat Daniel Johnson (Chelmsford) and Tom Lusty (Solihull CC) put in a near perfect showing in heat one with a time of 3:31.61. Zyggy Chmiel (Nottingham) and Charlie Smith (Leighton Buzzard) finished two seconds behind, with both crews progressing into Sunday morning’s final. Heat Two saw Jon Boyton and Tim Pendle claim the quickest time of the heat, finishing in 3:35.19.

Zyggy Chmiel and Charlie Smith continued their strong start to the day with another good performance, this time in K2 Men’s U23 and Senior Open 500m heats. The duo beat K1 200m Junior World Champion Ieuan James and Trevor Thomson in heat two.

In the K2 Boys U16 + U18 1000m selection heats, the stand out performers were James Smithson (Royal Leamington Spa CC) and Phillip Miles (Royal Leamington Spa CC) who will line up in Sunday’s final after posting a time of 3:43:15.

In the K2 Girls U16 + U18 500m selection heats, Freya Peters (Richmond CC) and Emma Russell put in a dominating run in heat one with a time of 1:59:45. Zoe Clark (Royal CC) and Rachel Kneen (Forth CC) secured top spot in heat two. Zoe and Rachel combined again later in the day in the K2 200m and took top spot in their heat for the second time today.

Away from selection races, there was a wealth of international canoe sprint medallists competing in preparation for their selection event on the 28 April.

In the K1 Women’s A + B 200m final, it was 2017 World and European K1 1000m bronze medallist Rachel Cawthorn who powered to the finish line in a time of 44.33, holding off three-time Olympian Jess Walker, who was extremely close to catching the eventual winner, and trailed by just 0.13 second.

Stelian Naftanalia claimed the Senior Men's A +B 200m Final, just edging junior World and European Champion Ieuan James by 0.11 seconds.