It’s not a high price for Emma Wiggs and Jeanette Chippington to pay, but both athletes will readily admit that the trappings of success can make life a little more difficult.

Wiggs and Chippington were part of the Great Britain Paracanoe team that swept all before them at the sport’s Paralympic debut in Rio last year, and who are fronting up this week in Racice, Czech Republic, for the 2017 ICF Paracanoe World Championships.

Wiggs won gold in the KL2, and Chippington gold in the KL1. A third Brit, Anne Dickins, won gold in the KL3 and retired after the Games. It was a Tour de Force for the team from Great Britain that also saw their men pick up two bronze medals.

Even before 2016 British Canoeing had a talent identification program which was the envy of paracanoe federations around the world. Both Wiggs (volleyball) and Chippington (swimming) came to paracanoe from other Paralympic sports.

And off the back of the Rio success, the paracanoe boat sheds at GB HQ became a little more crowded. Which is never a bad thing for a fledgling sport, and it’s meant athletes like Wiggs and Chippington have had to step everything up a notch.

One of the new faces was two-time Paralympic swimming medallist, Charlotte Henshaw

“We’ve seen a lot of talent athletes come in, which is brilliant,” Wiggs said from Racice this week.

“We’ve got a couple of new really talented youngsters, and that’s added a new really great dimension to the squad. They’ve brought in new skills.

“Two of them are existing Paralympians, so that’s great to have that experience and expertise in the squad now.

“I think that’s our greatest asset in GB, that we have a strong squad that is pushing each other to be faster every day, because otherwise you’re going to be left behind.

“There’s no slacking in our training.”

Wiggs already had tough competition from British teammate Nicola Paterson, runner-up behind Wiggs in the KL2 at the past two World Championships.

And despite the presence this week of both the silver and bronze medallist from Rio, it could once again be Paterson who poses the greatest threat to Wiggs’ dominance of this event.

“Nikki’s always there training hard and working alongside me,” Wiggs said.

“It’s great to be able to train together and hopefully we can take on the world together, and maybe win a couple of medals.”


Chippington, who already had an incredible five Paralympic Games and a sack full of medals to her name as a swimmer, has swept all before her since making the switch to canoe. There’s just one blot on her copybook, and she’s determined to rectify that this week.

“We had the Europeans last month and that was my first International since Rio, so to win gold at that was really nice,” Chippington said.

“But for me, coming to these World Championships is all about regaining my world title that I lost last year.”

Edina Muller, herself a former world-class Paralympic basketballer, edged out Chippington at last year’s World Championships, before winning silver when the positions were reversed in Rio.

For Chippington, gold at the sport’s Paralympic debut has whet her appetite for a possible seventh Paralympics. Tokyo will happen in the same year Chippington, who made her Paralympic debut in Seoul in 1988, turns 50.

“Before Rio I thought what will be, will be. As long as I had the race of my life, the outcome didn’t really matter,” she said.

“But winning that gold has enhanced my life. I was very fortunate to be awarded an MBE from Prince Charles. I’ve been competing with my swimming for 20 years, so that was pretty amazing to receive that.

“It’s not just me that gets pleasure from me winning gold. It’s my family, my friends, and that’s still going on now.

“I could have retired at the top, with that gold medal, but I’m an athlete, I like racing, I like competing, so for me it’s not all about winning gold.

“And those races are so close that it could be anybody’s. If I was to give up every time somebody beat me, I’d have given up years ago.”

The 2017 ICF Paracanoe World Championships begin Wednesday and finish Saturday at Racice, Czech Republic.

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