Tom Norton and Jemma Smith have been crowned Shaw and Partners Financial Services Coolangatta Gold Downwind Paddle champions after an epic race on Saturday afternoon.
Competitors set off at Coolangatta Beach across the 15km course that took them south, before heading back up along the iconic Gold Coast coastline to finish back at Coolangatta.
In a red hot men’s field that featured Australian champions, Olympians and world champions, it came down to a sprint finish between Tom Norton and Cory Hill.
Norton managed to just pip former world champion Hill at the post, with Manly’s Oscar Jones rounding out the podium in third.
Norton said it was great to race against some of the best paddlers in the world, and that makes the win extra special.
“It was very tough…the first 5km we were full of energy so it wasn’t too bad. Once we turned, there was a few runs out there which was good, but then the race back to the beach was just pure toughness straight into the wind,” Norton said.
“I hit the turn first, but then Cory got away from me, he’s really good at picking the runs.
“Sometimes when you’re behind you get that underdog feeling and I was just slowly catching him, and then finally went past him so I was stoked,” he said.
Norton said he’s got a big few months of racing coming up, culminating in the 2023 ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in Perth in December.
“We’ll head to Sydney in a couple of weeks for the 20 Beaches, I’ve never won that one so I’m really looking forward to it,” Norton said.
“And then we’ll head over to Perth for Race Week, followed by the World Championships which will be great. So we’ve got a lot of racing coming up and I’m really excited about it,” he said.
Smith, who won the inaugural title in 2022 and current world champion, showed why she is among the best paddlers in the world, claiming a commanding win ahead of New Zealand’s Danielle McKenzie.
Smith said she was super proud to be part of the event, and see so many paddlers joining in.
“I think the greatest thing to see was when we were lining up and just how many people were there.
“It’s unreal that everyone has really got behind this event, it’s the second year it’s been run and to see the numbers grow has just been awesome.
“I’m really stoked to be a part of it, and I hope that everyone has had a great day out here at Coolangatta. I even got to paddle alongside a whale out there, which was really cool,” she said.
Smith said she’s now eager to head over to Perth, where she hopes to defend her 2022 world title.
“Going over to Perth we’ve obviously got Race Week, straight into Worlds, so there will be a lot of paddling on offer for everyone.
“Really looking forward to getting over there and lining up against the best in the world. It will be a really good time over there and I can’t wait for it to come around,” she said.