Australia’s Curtis McGrath and Great Britain’s Emma Wiggs both won their 12th world titles and Charlotte Henshaw held on to narrowly claim her ninth on a gripping first day of finals racing at the ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Hungary on Friday.

McGrath overcame a slow start to win the men’s KL2, Wiggs had to hold off a spirited challenge from Canada’s Brianna Hennessy in the women’s VL2, and fellow Brit Henshaw just held out teammate Hope Gordon in the women’s VL3.

Wiggs has had a stranglehold on the women’s VL2 since before it made its Paralympic debut in 2016. Despite occasional injury struggles, the former UK sitting volleyball captain said he’s feeling ready for a third Paralympic campaign.

“This is very much a benchmark for us, so it’s nice to be able to just pip it,” Wiggs said.

“The rest of the field is getting very close, but it’s great to have a race that feels very tight.

“If we can get through selection and be on that start line in Paris it’s going to be pretty special. Another Games would be an incredible opportunity and I’m excited to hopefully be there and hopefully have some tight racing.”

Australia Curtis McGrath Szeged 2024

Hennessy finished second, and Australia’s Susan Seipel third.

McGrath has similarly been a dominant force in paracanoe for nearly a decade, but had to work his way through the field to win the men’s KL2 on Friday.

“The competition out there today was pretty tough for me, it gave me a good little scare in the middle, but I knew my strength was at the end of the race and I can’t panic,” McGrath said.

“A lot of us have trained right into this event so when we go to Paris it will be all about tapering and sharpening that spear and making sure we’ve crossed all the T’s and dotted the I’s.

“Everyone’s getting stronger, it’s pretty amazing how much faster every competition is.”

A determined David Phillipson from Great Britain finished second, and in doing so picked up another Paris quota for Team GB, while Brazil’s Fernando Rufino De Paulo was third.

The women’s VL3 will make its Paralympic debut in Paris. Henshaw has been unbeatable in the race in the lead-up to the Games, but came close to a rare defeat on Friday with a tense tussle with teammate Gordon.

Henshaw said she expects Gordon to be even tougher to beat in Paris.

Great Britain Hope Gordon Charlotte Henshaw Szeged 2024

“When I first joined the sport I was doing Va’a to get the numbers up, to showcase what the event could be, so to get it into the Games was a really exciting step forward,” Henshaw said.

“We’ve showcased it again today. We’ve not only put it into the program, but it’s a very exciting race, it’s close racing, the girls are stepping up all over the world, really embracing that we’ve got this new event.

“It’s what we want from paracanoe, we want exciting races, and I’m just proud to play a small part in that.”

Uzbekistan’s Shakhzoda Mamadalieva finished third.

The non-Paralympic women’s VL1 was won by Italy’s Viktoryia Pistis Shablova, ahead of India’s Pooja Ojha and Chile’s Jocelyn Munoz.

The first races on the ICF’s Sprint World Cup program also got underway on Friday, with the first medals set to be awarded on Saturday.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Full coverage of this week's events in Szeged can be viewed on the ICF’s Premium YouTube channel

Join Planet Canoe's YouTube channel for €9.99 per month to unlock members-only content and features

You can find all the event details, including schedules and start lists, on our official event webpages.

Related links