A fantastic fourth day of racing for Britain at the 2021 Canoe Sprint European Olympic Qualifier and World Cup 1 (Paralympic Qualifier) in Szeged, Hungary, saw the team win two gold medals, three bronze and Britain’s eighth boat quota spot for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, in the men’s KL2 event.
A fantastic bronze medal performance from Dave Phillipson was enough to qualify the men’s KL2 boat quota spot for Great Britain in Tokyo later this year. It was a tight final, and Dave put down a brilliant run on the Szeged course to finish in third with a time of 44.88, just over half a second from top spot.
Delighted with how he performed today, Dave said:
I’m really chuffed with myself today. I really didn’t know where I was going to finish. I knew what my main job was today, but my other main goal was to medal. I went out there today to win it, but I am really buzzing with bronze.– Dave Phillipson
“I am over the moon to qualify Britain's KL2 men's boat quota spot. This is one of my biggest achievements I think. I really can’t wait for the remainder of the season.
“I will get back to Nottingham, and put in loads more hard work as I look ahead to the rest of the year.”
In the same final, British teammate and 2016 Paralympic bronze medallist Nick Beighton came sixth with a time of 46.69.
Reigning Olympic Champion Liam Heath returned to international competition for the first time in 20 months in style, winning gold in the men’s K1 200m A final.
Having progressed through the heats and semi-finals with ease, winning both his rounds, Liam showed his experience and power on the course where he qualified his Tokyo 2020 Games spot two years ago, with a victory in 35.68.
It was a tight final with 0.06 separating the top three, but as Liam gears up to the Olympic Games later this summer, he is delighted to get a gold medal to start the international season.
“It was really good to get back out racing. After what everyone has been through in 2020, it was just fantastic to get here and to race.
It is a great start to what is going to be a competitive season. It was a pretty tough final, it was very close racing at the finish line. I am just really happy with the win.– Liam Heath MBE
“I had no idea who crossed the line first, I just put my head down and raced as hard as I could. I was feeling good, there was a bit of a headwind and it was a tight finish across the line. I had to ask where I came and waited nervously for that confirmation.
“I didn’t really have a goal here in Szeged, I just wanted to get some good racing in. Just getting the best efforts and best performances I could here. I was aiming towards gold but just wanted to do the best I can. Now it is time to put some more training in before the next peak.
“I’m hoping to get some more racing in before I head to Tokyo.”
It was Laura Sugar who got the medals underway for Britain in the paracanoe World Cup, winning her first ever individual gold medal in the women’s KL3 final.
Having qualified directly for the final two days previous with a dominant display, the 2019 World Championship silver medallist showed that same power and intent once again, putting a good distance between herself and the rest of the field to win the race in 48.11, over two seconds ahead of her nearest challenger.
I’m so pleased with my gold medal. I knew my training was going really well but you don’t know what the rest of the world are up to, especially after so long out of the sport. I am so happy. My first ever individual gold medal in any sport so I’m super proud of that.– Laura Sugar
“I was really good going into the race. I controlled my nerves well and did my best. It was mainly excitement to get back out racing.
"It’s been an amazing start to the season. It’s a confidence boost to see my training has paid off. Not just me but the whole team are going really well. Knowing I can perform in different conditions, in a headwind or a slight crosswind that we had today is great.”
Deborah Kerr continued her wonderful start to the 2021 canoe sprint season by winning World Cup bronze in the women’s K1 200m, her first international senior medal.
Coming into the competition off the back of winning the K1W 200m boat quota place for Great Britain in the European Olympic Qualifier, Deborah continued to show she has the pace to compete at the top of the event.
The Strathclyde athlete progressed through her semi-final in second place, before delivering an impressive final display, with a strong final 50 metres, to claim third with a time of 41.80.
I am really happy with today. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet. It’s such a whirlwind when you get off the water and straight to the medal ceremony. It was a bit surreal, I am delighted with my race.– Deborah Kerr
“It was about how close I could get to those medals today, especially as I haven’t raced this event internationally since 2015. It’s been a fun but really challenging week.
“Kristina has been great. She knows what works for me, and her confidence in the programme she has written for me just rubs off on me. Even during lockdown I worked really hard, watching old World Cup races on the TV whilst I was on the ergo in my flat. The goal was always dangling in front of me and that is what has spurred me on in each training session.”
Rob Oliver won another World Cup medal as he claimed bronze in the men’s KL3 final. In the final paracanoe race of the competition, Rob showed power out of the start bucket and held onto a podium spot with third place in 42.39, with Juan Valle challenging him for that bronze medal.
I am really pleased I'm heading home with some silverware. I am even more pleased with my processes in the heats, semi and getting to the final. It was absolutely spot on. Really happy with the learning of the week.– Rob Oliver
"Covid times racing is really interesting and I learnt a lot from coming to Szeged. Even little things like keeping yourself entertained, packing enough to last you the week and having that airport experience are so valuable.
"It was so nice to be racing again. You've come out and you don't know how others are going to race, and there are some new athletes too."
Katie Reid concluded her week in Szeged with a ninth place finish in the women’s C1 200m A Final. The Forth athlete came third in the European Olympic Qualifier on Thursday, and has delivered some pleasing times across the week, including a 50.26 going into the headwind.
Katie can take confidence from these performances as she heads to Barnaul, Russia next week to compete in the Global Qualifier.
Elsewhere, Emily Lewis finished third in the B Final of the women’s K1 200m with a time of 41.74. It was a close race with five athletes challenging for the victory and Emily managed to power through and take a great third place finish.
Tom Lusty finished joint fifth in the B Final of the men’s K1 1000m. It was literally neck and neck between the Solihull paddler and Augstin Vernice of Argentina, and the pair couldn’t be separated, finishing in 3:46.94.
Continuing with her busy week on the water, Deborah Kerr returned once again for the K1W 500m semi-final. It was a strong field and Deborah battled with the leading pack most of the way, and claimed a fifth place finish and will challenge in the B Final tomorrow.
Only recently coming back together as a C2W 500 crew, Chloe Bracewell and Afton Fitzhenry unfortunately finished ninth in their semi-final which meant they did progress to the next round.
Liam Heath - K1M 200m GOLD
Laura Sugar - KL3W GOLD
Deborah Kerr - K1W 200m BRONZE
Dave Phillipson - KL2M BRONZE
Rob Oliver - KL3M BRONZE
Katie Reid - C1W 200m - 9th in final
Emily Lewis - K1W 200m - 3rd in B final
Tom Lusty - K1M 1000m - 5th in B final
Afton Fitzhenry/Chloe Bracewell - 8th in semi-final
Deborah Kerr - K1W 500m - 5th in semi-final and progresses to B Final
Nick Beighton - KL2M - 6th in final