Para canoe season opens in Hungary

Big names return as road to Tokyo 2020 begins 17 May 2018
Emma Wiggs of Great Britain

Emma Wiggs of Great Britain is now a four-time world champion

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By ICF and Louise Wood for the IPC

The Para canoe season is underway in Szeged, Hungary, with the International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Cup starting today (17 May).

The competition features the return of several big names, and marks the start of a new chapter for the sport after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) approved the introduction of three new categories for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

In addition to the kayak (KL) discipline, which was contested at the sport’s Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, va'a (VL) will join the programme in Tokyo, and both will be raced over 200 metres.

As a result, many of the top canoeists will be doubling up in Szeged.

Australia's Curtis McGrath is the current world and Paralympic champion in the men’s KL2 class and world champion in VL2.

“It’s exciting that we’ve got another new event in there, and heading towards Tokyo it’s great to see that the sport of Para canoeing is growing,” McGrath said.

“I felt after Rio that I could have added another event, so I’m glad that VL1 is in there. I would really like to be able to stand on the podium twice in Tokyo.”

His rival for many years has been Austria's Markus Swoboda who finished second behind McGrath at both the Worlds and Paralympics. However the six-time world champion will hope to reverse those results starting in Hungary in both KL2 and VL2.

The women's KL2 class has been dominated by Great Britain's Emma Wiggs and she will look to extend her success in the va’a discipline. Her compatriot Jeanette Chippington also boasts the world and Paralympic KL1 titles and will race in both categories. But Australia’s VL1 world champion Jocelyn Neumueller will be tough to beat.

The men's KL1 class will have current world champion Esteban Gabriel Farias of Italy up against Paralympic champion Jakub Tokarz of Poland. Hungary's Robert Suba is hoping to out paddle both of them on home water in KL1. and VL1 Paralympic champion Luis Carlos Cardoso da Silva of Brazil is also in the mix.

Ukraine’s world and Paralympic KL3 champion Serhii Yemelianov will be challenged this season by VL3 world champion Great Britain's Jonathan Young.

In the women’s equivalent, Australia’s Amanda Reynolds will look to show why she is the KL3 world champion and Paralympic silver medallist.

The competition runs until Saturday (19 May). More information can be found on the ICF’s website