Paracanoe's best remind us why they are the best

Australia’s Curtis McGrath, and Ukranian pair Maryna Mazhula and Serhii Yemelianov reminded everyone why they are already Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medal favourites by successfully defending their crowns at the 2019 ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, on Saturday.

The trio are now multiple world champions in their categories, with 2016 Paralympic champion McGrath picking up his fourth KL2 title, Mazhula has two, and Yemelianov now has been world champion three times, to go with his Rio gold medal.

Yemelianov has dominated his event since the Rio Paralympics, and although he had to work harder on Saturday to hold off Russia’s Leonid Krylov, he’s planning to hold on to the title for a lot longer.

The wins by the two Ukranians came on their country’s national day.

“This was a very hard world championships, I’ve been training every day, and I have a dream to win the world title ten times,” Yemelianov said.

“But I have to keep working harder, because every year athletes are getting faster.

“Paracanoe in the Ukraine has not been going for very long, so this success is very good for our country. We hope to keep the sport growing in the future.”

Ukraine Maryna Mazhula KL1 Szeged 2019

Teammate Mazhula finished almost a full second ahead of Germany’s Edina Mueller, who was back racing after having a baby in January, with Chile’s Katherinne Wollermann third.

“This is a very special world championships for me because I want to be at the Paralympics next year,” Mazhula said.

“I know about the course in Tokyo, and I know about the weather there and the wind, but I will try and do a good job.”

Like Yemelianov, McGrath has dominated his KL2 category since Rio, but he had to finish hard on Saturday to chase down Italy’s Federico Mancarella, with New Zealand’s Scott Martlew third.

“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.”

The top six in each Paralympic class race qualifies a quota place for Tokyo next year, with a restriction on one per country.

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