Curtis McGrath is pretty certain he wants to celebrate his history-making performance at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, but at the moment all he can think about is having a rest.

The 33-year-old won his second gold medal in Tokyo and the third of his career with a flawless performance in the final of the men’s VL3, a new paracanoe event at the Games but the same boat where he started his career back in 2014.

The addition of va’a boats to the Paralympic programme provided an opportunity for a handful of athletes to attempt to win two Games medals. McGrath eagerly grabbed the opportunity, but now he is exhausted.

“I’m definitely going to have a year off next year, I’m a little bit tired and sore, I need my body to recover,” McGrath said.

“Five years hammering the same block of steel is pretty hard so I’m keen for a break and to take some time out. Five years is such a long cycle. You’re getting ready in 2020, then the Games get postponed, and then having to push through and find the motivation.

“Everyone was lost last year, we didn’t know what to do, no-one had been in that situation before. It was really disrupting, the goal was the same, the posts had just shifted.”

McGrath is going to miss this month’s ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Denmark, opting instead to return to Australia and two weeks of solitary hotel quarantine. It will give him plenty of time to reflect on his achievements of this week, and his journey to get here.

His achievements have caught the attention of Australia, with even the country’s Prime Minister posting a person note of congratulations on McGrath’s social media account.

“It’s a bit of a good wrap, I think it’s pretty cool being recognised for the efforts as a Paralympian just as much as everyone else, that’s what we are all after,” McGrath said.

“I’m very happy to have this all done, it’s been a long road and everyone has worked really hard to get here, thankfully I achieved all my dreams and goals, so I’m very happy.”

Adding to McGrath’s pressure in Tokyo was constant questioning about his thoughts on the events in Afghanistan, the country where he lost both his legs when he stepped on an explosive device in 2012.

He never shied away from the questions, patiently pointing out his role in the war-torn country and how, after initially feeling his sacrifices had been for nothing, he had come to terms with what was unfolding.

He said it took a lot of his attention, but did not distract him from his task in Tokyo. And he said his medals in Rio and again in Tokyo were very much a tribute to the men and women who played roles before and after his injuries.

“Not really. They are two very separate things in my mind, but I connect them in a way,” he said.

“It is a tragic situation and I hope they can get a peaceful resolution. One of the greatest moments of this Paralympic Games is having the Afghan athletes here, and I hope they have a peaceful return to their country and are honoured just the way we are.

“I’m just one part of a puzzle piece that creates this moment and these Games. Right from the battle fields of Afghanistan, laying on the dirt potentially going to die, all the people from that moment all the way through to my recovery and here on the line, and my family and friends beyond that. All of the effort and work that has been put in to support me, this is just a tribute to that.”

Pics by Dezso Vekassy

Australia Curtis McGrath VL3 Tokyo Paralympics

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