Champions faced stiff competition from a host of new stars as the opening heats got underway at the 2016 ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany.

Superstar of the sport and four-time world champion, Fernando Fernandes (BRA), is perhaps the best barometer of how far the sport has come since the first world championship in 2010.

In the opening heats the 35-year-old Brazillian put in a performance of a level fast enough to have secured a world title six years ago, but now the same performance is lucky to progress beyond the preliminary rounds.

China’s Xiaowei Yu was the fastest from the three heats in Fernandes’ class stopping-the-clock at 51.060.

The Brazilian’s compatriot, Luis Carlos Cardoso Da Silva and the Hungarian Róbert Suba secured their safe passage through to the final after winning the other KL1 Men’s 200m heats.

Meanwhile, Fernandes will have to race again against the best of the rest to try and qualify for the final at the second time of asking.

In the KL1 Women 200m multiple world champion Jannette Chippington (GBR) and local Edina Müller (GER) won their respective heats to successfully progress.

Markus Mendy Swoboda (AUT, KL2 Men 200m) was another champion who impressed, managing to gap his closet rival by three-seconds in his opening run.

Swoboda’s main rival, Curtis McGrath (AUS), also comfortably progressed from his heat and will look to break the Austrian's reign of six consecutive world titles when the pair line-up in the final on Thursday.

McGrath followed his kayak heat with another leading performance in the Va’a. The 28-year-old is double world champion in this event and was untroubled in his heat.

Other big names in the sport such as Tom Kierey (GER, KL3 W 200m), Emma Wiggs (GBR, Kl2 W 200m) and Amanda Reynolds (AUS, KL3 W 200m) also passed through the opening rounds without trouble.

The action continues tomorrow with the semifinals.