Curtis McGrath and Charlotte Henshaw paddled to double gold. But it was hometown hero Peter Pal Kiss who stole the show at the Szeged 2019 Para Canoe World Championships, as competition concluded on Sunday in Hungary.
The 16-year-old Hungarian backed up his shock 2019 European Championship gold medal with the biggest win of his career, thrilling the home crowd by winning the men’s KL1 200m.
Kiss upset two-time Italian world champion Esteban Farias in the final by .75 seconds, with Brazil’s Rio 2016 Paralympic champion Luis Cardosa da Silva taking the bronze.
The Tokyo 2020 implications in Szeged gave Hungarians much to look forward to, as the top six finishers from each Paralympic medal event earned a slot for their nation.
“I have only been paddling for three years, this is fantastic,” Kiss said. “It’s very good, I’m very happy. This is my best result ever, it’s amazing.”
Great Britain will have a difficult time choosing whom to cheer on in the women’s KL2.
Henshaw beat compatriot and reigning 2016 Paralympic champion Emma Wiggs with conviction by 1.47 seconds. Australia’s Susan Seipel completed the podium.
It was back-to-back titles for Henshaw, but that was not all for her as she won gold in the non-Paralympic women’s VL3.
“I think that’s what is amazing about our partnership, our rivalry if you want, that every time we race we are pushing the event forward,” Henshaw said about the KL2 final. "Again we have two Brits at the top of the podium, which is always a good day at the office.
“Last year was such a surprise to me. I’m still relatively new to the sport, and I still feel like I’ve got some improvement to make. I’m not a perfect paddler, and I hope I never am because that means there is nothing else to find.”
Wiggs got to celebrate a triumph of her own in the women’s VL2.
The victory meant a lot for the tearful paddler, who had been battling a wrist injury and more.
“I always said if I couldn’t get faster I’d retire, and I just haven’t felt competitive,” Wiggs said. “I’ve just been on the verge of thinking I’m too old for this, but Matt (my coach) still believes, and my family still believes, so I just want to make them proud.”
Seipel took the silver and Russia’s Mariia Nikiforova took the bronze.
Brazil brings it
Despite losing in the men’s KL1, da Silva still got to celebrate when he broke through to win gold in the men’s VL2. After winning silver 12 months ago, da Silva stepped up to take the victory ahead of Portugal’s Norberto Mourao, who won his country’s first Para canoe World Championship medal, and Poland’s Jakub Tokarz.
“I wanted to win, and I wanted to make sure we can go to Tokyo next year,” the Brazilian said. “Now I will have to train really hard for next year.”
Da Silva’s compatriot Caio Ribeiro de Carvalho tried to make it double gold for their nation but left with bronze in a highly-competitive men’s KL3 event.
It was Ukraine’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Serhii Yemelianov who once again remained the man of the show, but he should not sit back.
Russia’s Leonid Krylov was only .53 seconds short of gold, and Carvalho .66 from Yemelianov.
In the women’s KL1, Yemelianov’s teammate Maryna Mazhula finished almost a full second ahead of Germany’s Edina Mueller, who was back racing after having a baby in January, with Chile’s Katherinne Wollermann third.
Same goes for Australia’s McGrath, who held on by a fingernail to successfully defend his VL3 world title, edging out Carvalho by just 0.10 of a second to repeat the gold and silver result from last year. Great Britain’s Stuart Wood took bronze.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever had, so it’s nice to be pushed all the way,” McGrath said.
“Caio’s always been there. Some days he gets a really good start, and some days he just doesn’t have the right go, but today was one of those days and he pushed me all the way.”
McGrath’s second gold came in the men’s KL2, which he successfully defended ahead of Italy’s Federico Mancarella and New Zealand’s Scott Martlew, respectively.
Know their names
Uzbekistan’s Shakhnoza Mirzaeva took the gold in the women’s KL3.
Mirzaeva made a name for herself when she broke through for silver at the 2017 Worlds, but upgraded that to gold last year.
“I have trained every day for three years, so it was hard work,” Mirzaeva said. “This is very important for me, and I am so glad that I have got the opportunity to go. I will work hard to make sure our flag is the highest.”
Great Britain’s Laura Sugar took the silver, while Iran’s Shahla Behrouzirad made history for her country by taking the bronze medal.
“This is the first time in the history of canoeing in Iran that a women can win a medal at a world championships, in both sprint and para,” Behrouzirad said.
“The whole canoeing family is going to be very happy when they hear about this medal. It is every athlete’s dream to take part in the Paralympics, and I was in Rio. I am glad to now have the chance to go to my second Games.”