Rio 2016 Olympians and Paralympians headline 2018 National Sprint Titles

Rio 2016 Olympians and Paralympians headline 2018 National Sprint Titles at Sydney International Regatta Centre 6 – 10 March 2018

Australia’s best sprint canoe paddlers hit the water at Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith from 6 – 10 March 2018 for Australian Caneoing’s 2018 National Sprint Championships.

Following the Senior selection regatta (4-5 March), the event was dominated by Australian Canoeing’s Olympic and Paralympic team paddlers, who made the most of the opportunity to secure some national titles before heading overseas in May for the international sprint season. The event was also a selection relevant regatta for the 2018 Paracanoe, U23 and Junior teams, which will be made public on Monday, 12 March 2018.

Olympian and World Champion in the women’s K1 1000 Alyce Burnett (QLD) took home the national title in the women’s K1 500 and K1 200 and continued her dominant form from the selection regatta, where she won all three women’s events (WK2 500, WK1 500 and WK1 200). See full story here: http://canoe.org.au/2018/03/06/young-guns-lead-way-at-canoe-sprint-selection/

Together with fellow Olympian and Sunshine Coast teammate Alyssa Bull (QLD), Burnett also won the K2 500 with the pair taking home their third consecutive national K2 title.

2017 U23 champion Aly Bull also won the WK1 1000, as well as the U23 K2 500 together with U23 partner Shannon Byrne (WA).

Jaime Roberts (WA) and Jo Brigden-Jones (NSW) won the K2 200 event and teaming up with Burnett and Bull, they also won the National Champion title in the K4.

For the Interstate K4 event Alyssa Bull and Alyce Burnett teamed up with U23 paddlers and fellow Queenslanders Brianna Massie and Lucinda Kelly to win the event and “Helen Brownlee Cup” ahead of Western Australia with Jaime Roberts, Amanda Reynolds, Yale Steinepreis and Caitlin Burt-Poloai. New South Wales finished third.

“A national title is always great to have under your belt and nationals is just a good opportunity to line up at the gates again and go through the race process and race against the girls again,” Burnett said after racing. “Bully and I have been together for a few years now and we’ve swapped positions so I’m in the front now and  she’s in the back and it’s our first season racing like that and it’s always good to come home with a couple of wins. But more importantly the other girls are pushing us hard and it’s never an easy win. The girls in Australia have done a huge step up and we are all pushing each other.”

And about the event as a whole she added, “SIRC has been great and I love racing here. We used this course for the Sydney Olympics and it’s an international standard course and the conditions are mostly quite favourable. We have a great timing system and awesome set of volunteers here and what else could you ask for.”

In the men’s events, young guns Riley Fitzsimmons (NSW) and Jordan Wood (QLD) continued their strong form from the selection regatta to take home their second consecutive K2 1000 title. The pair, who was part of the Rio 2016 Olympic K4 team and won the World Championship title in the men’s K4 1000 last year, also won the K2 500. In the K4 National Championship event the pair teamed up with Murray Stewart (NSW) and Tom Green (QLD) to add another national title to their collection.

“We’ve had a few hit-outs this season already and the K2 I’ve been paddling with Jordan Wood has been getting better with every race. This puts us in a really good state for the international season coming up,” Riley Fitzsimmons said.

And with Tokyo 2020 in mind Jordan Wood added, “Tokyo 2020 is the end goal. We’ve got so much more to give and we just want to keep building through to Tokyo, that’s the long term goal.”

The 200m events were dominated by Western Australia with dual Olympian and winner of the K1 200 event at the selection regatta Steve Bird backing up with the national title and a course record of 0:34.79 at Nationals. Together with Olympian Jesse Phillips (WA), Bird also won the national title in the MK2 200 as well as in the MK4 200 together with Jesse Phillips, Matt Goble (SA) and Mark Stowe (NSW). This wrapped up a successful return to competition for Bird, who has been back in training after a year-break post Rio 2016 since September last year.

“It’s been an interesting build up for me having taken a year off but my preparation for the selection weekend and nationals was fantastic and I couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in the best position. Ultimately though my preparations are geared towards the World Championships in August,” Steve Bird said.

Dual Olympian and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Murray Stewart (NSW) won his fourth consecutive title in the men’s K1 1000 and also took home the win in the Interstate K4 “Dennis Green Cup” together with fellow New South Welshmen Riley Fitzsimmons, Simon McTavish and Rob McIntyre. The team beat South Australia into second with Queensland following in third and Western Australia in fourth.

In the absence of Olympic medallist Kenny Wallace due to medical reasons, Murray finished second in the MK2 1000 together with 18-year old Tom Green (QLD).

In the Paracanoe events Paralympic Games Champion and dual World Champion Curtis McGrath (QLD) won the MV1 200 and 500 as well as the MK1 500 and 1000 Multi-Class events. Mc Grath was also part of the Open Queensland K4 that won bronze in the Interstate Event together with Joel McKitterick, Tom Green and Jordan Wood.

“It’s been pretty good so far, but I’m nursing a few injuries this season and to come away and have a couple of good races at nationals was really good,” McGrath said.

While it was nice to get some national racing in, it is the international season that is the focus as McGrath explained: “The goals this season is definitely to go over to Europe and defend the World title I managed to get last year, which will be first and foremost. But also going over there and doing a PB would be a good achievement for myself.”

In the Paracanoe men’s K1 200 Multi-Class final Paralympian Dylan Littlehales pipped McGrath on the line with just .12 seconds separating the two. The 18-year old also came third in the men’s K2 200 together with Avoca Club mate Robert McIntyre.

“This season has been going well. I already managed to take a win over Curtis (McGrath) at Oceania Champs and again here at Nationals, a goal I’ve had over many years now, so that was a good start to the year and I’m hoping to keep it going,” Littlehales said.

Paralympic medallists and 2017 Paralympic World Champion Amanda Reynolds (VIC) won the Paracanoe Women’s K1 200, 500 and 1000 Multi-Class events with Paralympic medallist and 2017 Paralympic World Champion Susan Seipel (QLD) finishing overall second and winning her KL2 class. Seipel also won the women’s V1 200 and 500.

Together with the Senior, U23 and Juniors, the 2018 Paracanoe Team will also be announced on Monday.

See all 2018 National Sprint Championships results here: http://bit.ly/ACNationals18_Results