“Standing on the podium listening to the Australian anthem and hearing my name called out as World Champion was awesome.”
For the first time in the sport, this year’s edition of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Para-Canoe World Championships in Milan, Italy, served as a Paralympic qualifier. With Rio 2016 on the line, two athletes’ performances stood out to make the No. 38 moment in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2015.
Australia’s Amanda Reynolds surprised the crowd by winning her first KL3 world title in a tight race. Meanwhile Austria’s Markus Swoboda confirmed his dominance in the men’s KL2 by winning his sixth World title in the 200m.
Reynold’s race was one to remember. After a bad start, the Australian had to play catch up in the women’s 200m KL3.
“I basically just put my race face on and I tried to make up as much distance as I could,” she explained.
But Reynolds dug deep in the end. Just .02 seconds separated her from Britain’s silver medallist Anne Dickins, the defending world and European champion.
“As I crossed the line I actually thought that Anne won,” Reynolds said. “When I asked her, she thought that she had and it was not until I was back on the pontoon that the results were posted and I realised that I had actually done it.”
The Australian, who started para-canoe in 2013, expected at least a silver medal in Milan after taking bronze medal at the 2014 World Champions in Moscow, Russia.
“It was and still is to a degree pretty surreal,” Reynolds reflected on being the 2015 world champion. “It was my goal to perform at my best and to win was going to be a bonus. I am still pinching myself.”
“Standing on the podium listening to the Australian anthem and hearing my name called out as World Champion was awesome,” she said.
With the gold, Reynolds secured a qualification slot for Australia at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where the sport will make its Paralympic debut.
On the men’s side, Swoboda stamped his dominance in the 200m KL2 class, and for the first time, he has a chance to add Paralympic champion to his resume. Since his Para-Canoe World Championships debut in 2010 in Poland, Swoboda has stood on top of the podium. No other male para-canoer has matched his feat in men’s KL2 class.
However, in Milan there was a shock in the preliminary heats. Swoboda had not lost a single race in five years, but that was taken in an earlier heat by Australia’s Curtis McGrath. But Swodoba still secured the world title the next day.
“The races get tighter every time and my opponents get stronger and more numerous every year. That is why winning my sixth title was really special,” Swoboda said.
At the moment, McGrath and Brazil’s Fernando Rufino de Paulo, who claimed silver and bronze, respectively, are Swoboda’s biggest competitors.
“The opponents are working hard and do not rest. In one year many things can happen, we will see how it goes in Rio,” he said. “The pressure is high and I want to exceed my expectations.”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.