Tears flowed freely as Australia picked up more gold medals, earned prized Paralympic and Olympic quotas and put in the races of their lives on the penultimate day of competition at the ICF canoe sprint and paracanoe world championships in Szeged, Hungary.
Curtis McGrath (QLD) defended his second world title of the World Championships, and earned Australia another place at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics by winning the KL2 title, the men’s K4 qualified for Tokyo despite missing out on the A-final, while the women’s K4 made the A-final and got a major step closer to realising their Tokyo dream as well. Riley Fitzsimmons and Jordan Wood put in another strong performance in the men’s K2 and will race for K2 1000 gold on Sunday.
McGrath Photo Steve McArthur
Paralympic Champion Curtis McGrath had to fight hard for his gold, taking the lead in the final 20 metres of the race.
“This is probably the most nervous I have ever been, I think because the field is getting closer and the competition is heating up,” McGrath said.
“I need to work on my mental side of things, focusing on and zeroing in on what I can do. A win is a win, but there are always things to improve on.
“Our focus this week has been to get all four quotas for Tokyo, and we have done that, so it has been a great event.”
KL2 Medals – Photo Steve McArthur
Saturday’s win in the KL2 200 followed McGrath’s win in the VL3 200 on Thursday and world champion title number nine and ten made for a special celebration on the seven-year survivor anniversary weekend for the 31-year old, who survived an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2012.
“This was a pretty good way to celebrate surviving an IED blast seven years ago. I actually forgot about it at first, I was having too much fun. But on the 23 of August 2012, I would have never thought being a world champion was ever possible,” McGrath said.
“I’m so grateful I get to share the journey with amazing people like the men on the podium with me. It has all been possible with the support and guidance of my friends and family.”
Dylan Littlehales (NSW) wrapped up a strong performance of the Australian paracanoe team, locking away Australia’s fourth quota when he finished fourth in the men’s KL3 200.
He was once again denied a podium by just a fraction of a second, this time finishing 0.09 of a second behind Brazil’s Caio de Carvalho.
Littlehales – Photo Steve McArthur
“I’m happy with my performance. It wasn’t the result I was aiming for but you can’t control what everyone else does and I went out, had a great race, did a good time and just missed the podium but that’s a part of sport. Most importantly, I got the Paralympic quota spot to end a successful year,” Littlehales said.
“I believe myself and the rest of the paracanoe team on track for a successful Tokyo Paralympic campaign with twelve months to go and hope we can keep that going.”
Winning four quota spots will enable the current four Australian paracanoe athletes of double world champion Curtis McGrath, Dylan Littlehales, world championships silver and bronze medallist Susan Seipel as well as Amanda Reynolds to compete in six Paralympic events come Tokyo 2020.
With two gold, one silver and one bronze, the Australian paracanoe team finished third on the medal table behind Great Britain and Ukraine.
MK4 – Photo Steve McArthur
In the Olympic events, Australia’s men’s K4 of Rio bronze medallist Lachlan Tame (NSW), Tom Green (QLD), Jackson Collins (QLD) and Matt Goble (SA) was also able to lock away a place in Tokyo, thanks to the four-continents rule and despite finishing sixth in their semi and missing the A-final.
In the Australian women’s K4 the stakes were high as well and the tears flowed freely on Saturday afternoon when Alyssa Bull (QLD), Jaime Roberts (WA), Alyce Burnett (QLD) and Jo Brigden-Jones (NSW), qualified for Sunday’s final with a third place in the semi-final and took a major step forward to qualify the K4 for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I’ve never experienced nerves like that, ever,” Bull said.
“We talked a lot about ignoring that pressure that is on to qualify Australia for the K4, but sometimes you just can’t get it out of your head.”
Brigden-Jones suffered the heartbreak of narrowly missing the 2016 Olympics after competing in London in 2012, and then had to take time out from her career to focus on qualifying the K4.
WK4 – Photo Steve McArthur
“I seriously could have walked away from the sport after missing out on Rio, and I seriously considered it many times,” Brigden-Jones said.
“These girls are the only reason that I’m in the sport today, because I want to be part of this, and it’s something so special and so amazing.
Roberts is the only member of the quartet not to have experienced an Olympics, and is thrilled to be part of the four that is vying for the Tokyo 2020 spot.
“I’m within touching distance and it’s pretty special to be doing it with three Olympians as well, so that lifts me every day,” she said.
“We’ve done step one, but there’s more to do tomorrow.”
The tears also flowed freely for Jordan Wood and Riley Fitzsimmons after they put in the race of their lives to qualify for the K2 1000 final. A top six finish on Sunday will wrap up an Olympic quota.
“We made ourselves known to the rest of the world that we’re here to race, we’re here to challenge for medals,” Fitzsimmons said.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else in the back of my boat. We’ve had so many great memories and great moments together in the boat, and we’ve done it all together. So you get quite emotional when you do things like this.”
Wood said to earn the K2 Olympic quota would be a dream come true.
“It would be amazing, and to do it with one of my good mates, that would make it even more special,” Wood said.
“We’ve had a lot of good times, and a lot of tough times as well. Coming into next year if we earn that quota spot tomorrow, just to do it together will be the most important thing.”
MK2 – Photo Steve McArthur
In other result on Saturday, senior world championships newcomer Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD) won his K1 1000 B final, Alyce Burnett finished fifth in the B final of the women’s K1 200, and Cat McArthur (SA) finished eighth in her semi of the K1 500 to qualify for Sunday’s C final.
The 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships will wrap up on Sunday with the Olympic events of the men’s K2 1000 as well as the women’s K4 500 final the highlights of the day.
Follow racing live via www.canoeicf.com
Follow results here https://results.szeged2019.com/competition/1/races
AUS Race Times (CET | +8hrs AEST)
10:20 WK1 500 Final C: Cat McArthur
10:38 MK4 500 Final B: Lachlan Tame, Tom Green, Jackson Collins, Matt Goble
12:00 MK2 1000 Final A: Jordan Wood, Riley Fitzsimmons
13:11 WK4 500 Final 1: Alyssa Bull, Jaime Roberts, Alyce Burnett, Jo Brigden-Jones
14:30 WC1 5000 Final: Bernadette Wallace
15:50 WK1 5000 Final: Alyssa Bull
16:25 MK1 5000 Final: Joel McKitterick
Australian A-Final Results
KL2 Men 200m Final A (Saturday, 24 August 2019)
KL3 Men 200m Final A (Saturday, 24 August 2019)
|3||Caio RIBEIRO DE CARVALHO||BRA||40.70+0.66|
KL2 Women 200m Final A (Friday, 23 August 2019)
KL3 Women 200m Final A(Friday, 23 August 2019)
|7||Amanda REYNOLD – 6th country||AUS||50.46+3.17|
VL2 Women 200m Final A (Thursday, 22 August 2019)
VL3 Men 200m Final A (Thursday, 22 August 2019)
|2||Caio RIBEIRO DE CARVALHO||BRA||47.52+0.10|