Nationals a stepping stone to Tokyo for Paralympians

Rio Paralympian Dylan Littlehales (credit: Carolyn Cooper)

Tokyo hopefuls Susan Seipel, AJ Jennings, Dylan Littlehales and Curtis McGrath headlined the para-canoe program at the 2021 Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships.

All four formed part of the Rio Paralympics team, now have their sights firmly set on a second Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

For Susan Seipel, having the opportunity to race at Australian Canoe Sprint Championships has provided the perfect stepping stone to the Tokyo Paralympics, in just over 90 days time.

“It’s been a long time between Nationals, and it’s really great to be back here, a little bit later than originally planned. 

“The Paralympics is getting a lot closer now, and starting to feel a lot more real that it’s actually going to happen. 

“I’m looking forward to it – I’m a bit cautiously optimistic about everything, but we’re going to just follow whatever we’re told to do and try to have a really safe Paralympics.

“There’s not much time left, so we’ve just got to keep going hard until the finish line is in sight,” she said.

Being at the Canoe Sprint Championships has also been a good marker in time for Seipel, who has enjoyed having the whole Olympic and Paralympic Sprint team back together.

“It’s one of the things that I really love about this sport, the inclusion of the para and able bodied events together,” Seipel said.

“I think it creates a really good environment and atmosphere, and everyone is so supportive of each other,” she said.

Fellow Rio Paralympic team mate Dylan Littlehales, said that he couldn’t have scripted his Nationals experience better.

“Obviously we couldn’t go out to Penrith this year with the flooding that happened out there, but it’s good to be back in South Australia,” Littlehales said.

“It’s my first Nationals down here, it’s been good weather all week, and good conditions – it’s just been great to get some domestic racing in,” he said.

Being reunited with his Gold Coast based team mates has definitely been a highlight for Littlehales, with Nationals also providing a good check in point for Littlehales to test his skills against teammate Curtis McGrath.

“I don’t actually get to see the rest of the para team too often because I’m training at Narrabeen under NSWIS at the moment. Just to catch up with everybody is always a bit of fun,” Littlehales said.

“Curtis and I have had a rivalry that goes back to when I started paddling, he’s having a good season leading into Tokyo, he’s looking really fit and he’s paddling really well at the moment,” he said.

With the Para teams Nationals campaign wrapped up, it will be straight back into training for the Tokyo Paralympics.

“I’ll take a week off after Nationals just to reset, and then straight back into it really, at Narrabeen and a little bit on the Gold Coast,” Littlehales said.