Top 50 Moments of 2017: No. 16 - McGrath wins on anniversary

Australian canoeist wins world gold five years after losing his legs in Afghanistan 16 Dec 2017

Australia’s Curtis McGrath bagged his sixth Para canoe world title at the 2017 edition.

But there was something extra special about that moment that makes it to No. 16 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2017.

McGrath’s victory on 24 August came five years after he stepped on a homemade landmine in Afghanistan and lost both his legs on 23 August 2012.

At the World Championships in Racice, Czech Republic, McGrath defended his KL2 title ahead of Austria’s Markus Swoboda, further stamping his dominance on the sport and showing how far he has come since his injury.

“There’s a bit of significance, but it’s just a sub-thought to what really matters on the start line,” McGrath said after his win.

“I like to think I get out there and make the most of the opportunities that I’ve got. There’s a lot of guys that are going through a tough time back in the military and outside the military with their post-traumatic stress and what’s happened to them in their service.

“So if I can show that getting out there and getting active leads to a positive and healthy life, it’s the least I can do really.”

The 29-year-old first picked up Para canoe in 2014 with targets of qualifying for Rio 2016, where the sport made its Paralympic debut.

He has won two world titles in Va’a events heading into the 2016 World Championships in Milan, Italy. But only the kayak events were being contested in Rio and had been dominated by Austrian Markus Swoboda.

At the 2016 Worlds in Duisburg, Germany, McGrath finally overtook Swoboda to leave with both the Va’a and kayak world titles. Then a few months later, he added the Paralympic gold to his resume.

Post-Games however, McGrath was looking for a new challenge and gave rowing a try. It was unclear if he would return this year to defend his canoe title.

“I enjoyed trying something I had never done before, but the more I looked at my year and schedule the harder it was to find time to fit everything in,” McGrath said at the time. “I competed at national championships this year and did well but I have had to hang the oar up due to the lack of time I have to fit everything in.

“My priority will be Para canoe and if I can manage my time better and I see myself wanting to go backwards for two kilometres I may try again.”

His sights are clearly set on Tokyo 2020, where Va’a events have been added to the Para canoe programme.

“I more like the sound of V1 and K1 champion for Tokyo,” said McGrath.

The countdown of the IPC’s Top 50 Moments continues until 31 December.