Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Tokyo 2020: Takeaways from Para Canoe

Eighteen-year-old Hungarian Peter Pal Kiss became the youngest ever Para Canoe Paralympic gold medallist, and the first teenager to triumph, in the men’s KL1 07 Nov 2021
Peter Kiss
TOP SHOW: Peter Pal Kiss of Hungary celebrates with his men’s Kayak Single 200m KL1 Canoe Sprint A gold at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
ⒸThomas Lovelock /OIS
By Lucy Dominy | For the IPC

Para Canoe athletes were out to prove that they had come a long way since the sport made its debut at Rio 2016. There were some noteworthy performances at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games that would do a world of good for the sport on the whole.  


Eighteen-year-old Hungarian Peter Pal Kiss became the youngest ever Para Canoe Paralympic gold medallist, and the first teenager to triumph, in the men’s KL1.

Kiss smashed his own personal best time to finish more than two seconds ahead of Brazil’s Luis Carlos Cardoso da Silva, with Frenchman Remy Boulle third.

Curtis McGrath of Australia celebrates his gold in the Canoe Sprint Men's Va'a Single 200m - VL3 Final A at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. © Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images


Australia’s Curtis McGrath celebrated two golds in 24 hours in Tokyo, becoming the first Para Canoe athlete to win double gold at a single Paralympics.

His first victory came with the defence of the KL2 title he won on the sport’s debut at Rio 2016. The Australian then completed a new challenge, claiming the win in the debut of the men’s VL3. It was the boat where it all began for the 33-year-old back in 2014, two years after losing his legs on the front line of the war in Afghanistan.

Rufino De Paulo of Brazil celebrates his gold in the men’s Va'a Single 200m Canoe Sprint VL2 Final A at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. © Joel Marklund /OIS.


Former rodeo bull rider Rufino de Paulo returned to the water in Tokyo having missed out on his chance to go for gold at home at Rio 2016.

The man they call ‘The Steel Cowboy’ withdrew five years ago due to a health scare but paddled to victory in Tokyo in the men’s VL2.

De Paulo claims to have had more than 80 accidents in his life, not all of them related to rodeo. The Brazilian told a stunned media that he had fallen from a bus and then got run over, had his head stepped on by an ox, got struck by lightning, and even had an elevator fall on him.

This time though, Brazil’s first Para Canoe gold medal was no accident.

Gold medallist Charlotte Henshaw GBR celebrates on the podium after winning the women’s kayak singles 200m KL2 Canoe sprint final A at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. © Joel Marklund / OIS


Great Britain repeated their table-topping performance from Rio 2016, finishing the Para Canoe competition as the most successful nation with three gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

Former swimmer and Paralympic medallist Charlotte Henshaw had never sat in a kayak until after Rio 2016, but took victory in the women’s KL2 with an emphatic win.

Laura Sugar took up Para Canoe even later, crossing from track and field in 2018. The 12-month delay to Tokyo gave her an extra year to learn the sport, and in Tokyo she won Great Britain’s third gold by triumphing in the women’s KL3.

And five years ago, Emma Wiggs made history by winning a gold medal at the debut of Para Canoe at the Paralympics. At Tokyo 2020 she etched her name into the record books again, this time by winning the first ever women’s va’a gold medal.

Edina Mueller of Germany poses with her women’s kayak singles 200m KL1 Canoe sprint final A gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. © Joel Marklund/OIS


Germany’s Edina Mueller overcame much more than the pandemic on her way to Germany’s first overall Para Canoe gold in the women’s KL1.

The Rio 2016 silver medallist arrived in Tokyo having taken time out to have a baby. During an interview the 38-year-old said she had heard some people say they did not think she would come back and if she did, she would not be a medal contender.

Mueller admits to arriving at Tokyo 2020 feeling that a silver medal was her best hope. Those thoughts quickly evaporated when the German beat Ukraine’s reigning World Champion Maryna Mazhula in her heat.

It is Mueller’s second gold medal, having won with her country’s Wheelchair Basketball team at London 2012, and her third Paralympics.