Austria’s Markus Mendy Swoboda is laying claim to be the busiest and most diverse athlete in world paddle sports.

The two-time Paralympian and silver medalist from Rio in 2016 last week joined a handful of para athletes in making history by competing in the 2022 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Portugal.

And then barely had he time to get his kayak out of the water before he was on a plane and heading to Columbus, Georgia, to compete in the ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cups.

All of this after competing earlier this year in the ICF Paracanoe World Championships.

“I started paddling at the age of 10,  first of all on flatwater, but 10 years ago I got myself a freestyle boat,” Swoboda said.

“About one year ago I met another freestyle kayaker and we became friends. They introduced me to wildwater and freestyle. I’ve been training back home on a small feature in Linz, which is running at low water, so most time of the year.”

But his debut at an international canoe freestyle event hasn’t gone to plan yet. A friend was planning to bring his specially-designed kayak to Columbus, but because of flight delays it didn’t arrive on time.

So Swoboda had to use a rental boat which wasn’t fitted out for his prosthesis, which made it difficult for him to edge his boat, a key element in freestyle.

But he achieved his goal, which was to score points. And his boat will be in Columbus in time for this weekend’s second world cup, so he is looking forward to a big improvement.

“This is the year after the Paralympics so some paddlers are charging hard, but I´ll just take it easy and enjoy paddling before focusing again for the next Paralympics selection,” he said.

“I’m really enjoying the friendship and camaraderie in the freestyle scene.”

Swoboda lost his legs in a saw machine accident when he was just seven. After having his prosthesis legs fitted he tried as many sports as he could, usually competing against able-bodied children.

The good news is, Markus Mendy Swoboda may not be the lone para athlete at future ICF canoe freestyle events. Organisers of next year’s world championships, also set down for Columbus, Georgia, are already planning a training camp to introduce more athletes with disabilities to whitewater canoeing.

The opening day of competition at the first ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup featured preliminary rounds in the men’s and women’s kayak surface competition.

British world champion Ottilie Robinson-Shaw showed she has lost none of the form which took her to three titles at this year’s world championships, posting a preliminary score of 1083.33, almost 300 points clear of the next best score, set by the USA’s Emily Jackson.

In the men’s competition Canada’s Nick Troutman, with a score of 2180, shaded American world champion Dane Jackson, who progressed with a score of 2126.66.

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Canoe Freestyle
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