Great Britain’s paracanoe team won an historic gold and two bronze medals on the first day of finals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in wet and grey conditions at the Sea Forest Waterway.
It was a double medal win in the Women’s VL2 for Emma Wiggs and Jeanette Chippington who picked up gold and bronze respectively.
Emma Wiggs made history as she became the first ever Paralympic Champion in the Women’s Va’a in a Paralympic best time of 57.028 and Great Britain’s first canoeing double Paralympic Champion.
She was cheered on from her hometown of Watford by a huge group of family and friends who have supported her every step of the way.
Holding her second Paralympic gold medal tightly and fighting back tears, Emma said: “I'm unbelievably chuffed and happy to be here with this heavy medal. It feels incredibly emotional because of the struggle everyone has had globally and I'm overwhelmingly grateful to the Japanese people and the organising committee for putting the games on.
She continued: “It's amazing to make history and to get on the podium with Jeannette again is more than we could have dreamt of and I’ve just heard that Rob has got on the podium which has made me cry again. I'm so proud of the team we have and there’s some unbelievable talent and more to come tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and our team have been incredible. The staff are world class in everything they do, we do the easy bit, paddling 200m.
“My family have also been incredible and that's why I find today so emotional as they've been part of this journey the whole time. I just wanted to make everyone at home proud. I actually imagined them on the bridge and I paddled towards them.”
In a thrilling race, former swimmer and Paralympic legend, Jeanette Chippington took the VL2 bronze in 1:02.149, making it her 14th Paralympic medal and her second medal in paracanoe.
Speaking candidly after the race, she said: “I didn't realise that I've medalled at all seven of the Games I’ve been to. To come away with a medal today and be able to say that is great. So many people have commented on my age and at 51 I’m still winning medals. I’m not superwoman, I put in hard work and have great support from my family and genuinely couldn't do it without them..
“Last year has been hard as I lost my dad to Covid and my mum has dementia. My parents would usually come to every Games, but I know they will both be so proud of me today. Tomorrow my main aim is to make the final.”
Rob Oliver improved on his fifth place in Rio 2016, putting everything he had into a super fast Men’s KL3 race. His smile and tears said it all as he held on for third place and a bronze medal in a time of 41.268, with just .012 of a second separating third and fourth.
Talking after the medal ceremony, Rob said: “I didn't know where I‘d finished but I knew it was going to be really tight. I’ve been nursing a bit of a stomach strain but I held it together and I just can’t believe I’ve got a medal.
“I got Covid five weeks ago and it was touch and go whether I’d come out. Everything has been so terrible I thought what else could go wrong.
“Being here and embracing the whole of the Paralympics in Tokyo would have been enough and taking that mindset has worked, as opposed to five years ago in Rio, where I couldn't handle the pressure. This time round I feel more grounded and I'm enjoying sport and coming out here with a medal is amazing.”
Elsewhere, there was disappointment for the men’s KL1 and KL2 paddlers who battled hard but failed to make the podium.
In the Men's KL1, Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ian Marsden threw everything into the race and finished in eighth in a time of 52.848. Peter Kiss the Hungarian put in a Paralympic best time to take the gold.
He reflected: “Tokyo has been a long time coming, and it’s a shame we’ve not had the crowds as it would have been so big for Japan. My heat was my first race in two years. It’s been good to get out there and pick up more experience and Paris really isn’t that far away. Thanks so much to everyone at home for supporting me and staying up all hours.”
Dave Phillipson, in his first Games for paracanoe, battled hard in the Men’s KL2 final and finished seventh in 43.348. Australian Curtis McGrath took the gold.
Clearly disappointed after the race, he said: ‘This is the most emotion I’ve shown. I've put my heart and soul into this over the last five years, moving from tennis after three games without a medal, I saw my chance in Paracanoe and I gave it my all out there.
“The team has been great and the coach has been amazing. I really rely on the team and I couldn’t do it without them. To do a Paralympics in a different sport is an achievement in itself and everyone in Tokyo has been brilliant. Hopefully Paris will bring a medal, I’m not done yet!”
How to watch and follow the action
Live coverage of the Games will be available across the Channel 4 broadcast channels and streaming via their website.
The competition schedule and full results service is available on the Tokyo 2020 Games website
New to paddling?
If you have been inspired by watching paracanoe at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, check out Paddle, Perform, Podium, our initiative looking for individuals to join the Paracanoe Talent Pathway, with the aim of competing at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and beyond.
Men's KL1 Semi Finals
Ian Marsden 3rd 52.806 A Final
Women's VL2 Semi Finals
Jeanette Chippington 1st 61.167 A Final
Men's KL2 Semi Finals
Dave Phillipson 3rd 43.075 A Final
Men's KL3 Semi Finals
Rob Oliver 2nd 41.102 A Final
Men's KL1 A Final
Ian Marsden 8th 52.848
Women's VL2 A Final
Emma Wiggs 1st 57.028 (PB) GOLD
Women's VL2 A Final
Jeanette Chippington 3rd 62.149 BRONZE
Men's KL2 A Final
Dave Phillipson 7th 43.348
Men's KL3 A Final
Rob Oliver 3rd 41.268 BRONZE