Para canoe will feature at the Paralympic Games for just the second time this summer. Here are some of the athletes to look out for, including an Australian army veteran, British rivals, and a talented teenager.
Curtis McGrath (Australia)
Having lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in the Australian army in Afghanistan in 2004, McGrath told his fellow soldiers he would be at the Paralympics one day. Fast forward to Rio 2016 and not only did he compete, he won gold in the men’s KL2. And with Tokyo in his sights, he will be looking to defend his KL2 title and win gold in the newly added VL3.
Serhii Yemelianov (Ukraine)
The world and Paralympic champion in the men’s KL3 is in strong form going into Tokyo 2020. But he will know that being the favourite does not guarantee success on the biggest stage. At Rio 2016, many considered German, Tom Kierey, the favourite, only for Yemelianov to excel in the final to take gold.
Peter Pal Kiss (Hungary)
Aged just 16, the Hungarian surprised Italian world champion, Esteban Farias, to win the men’s KL1 gold in front of a home crowd at the Szegad 2019 Para Canoe World Championships last August. The teenager will hope to build on this experience and perhaps even cause another upset in Tokyo.
Luis Cardoso da Silva (Brazil)
After the disappointment of missing out on the medals in the men’s KL1 at his home Paralympic Games at Rio 2016, Cardoso da Silva will hope to bounce back in the newly added VL2 event. He won gold at the 2019 world championships and will hope for another strong performance in this year’s event.
Charlotte Henshaw (Great Britain)
Henshaw is creating quite a rivalry with fellow Brit, Emma Wiggs (see below) in the women’s KL2. Henshaw has won gold at the past two world championships and will hope to secure her first Paralympic triumph in Tokyo this summer.
Maryna Mazhula (Ukraine)
The world champion in the women’s KL1 will make her Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020. The Ukrainians are strong in the kayak disciplines and Mazhula will hope to continue her good form from the past two world championships into Tokyo.
Emma Wiggs (Great Britain)
Tokyo 2020 will be Wiggs’ third Paralympic Games. She competed in sitting volleyball at London 2012, before switching to Para canoe at Rio 2016, winning gold in the women’s KL2. While the VL2 is her most likely chance of gold at Tokyo, she will push Henshaw all the way to defend her KL2 title.
Shaknoza Mirzaeva (Uzbekistan)
Mirzaeva continues to improve year by year. Having won silver at the world championships in the women’s KL3 in 2017, she then won world cup gold in 2018. Having upgraded her silver to gold at the 2019 world championships, few would be surprised to see her take the ultimate step with Paralympic gold this summer.