At the finish line end of the Sea Forest Waterway there is a massive traffic bridge which arcs across the sky and stands as a divide between Tokyo and the ocean.

On that bridge on Friday Emma Wiggs imagined her family and friends standing, cheering her on as she raced for Paralympic glory after a five year emotional roller coaster ride that tested the 41-year-olds mental and physical strength on more than a few occasions.

Her voice choked post-race as she recounted her life post-Rio, when she went from being on the top of the world after winning gold at paracanoe’s Paralympic debut, to the despair brought on by injury and the feeling of losing control.

And why it was that she was imagining her family on that bridge past the finish line.

“I’m a year older, so it’s not that easy, and the youngsters are coming through, and I just wanted to make everyone at home proud,” Wiggs said.

“I imagined them all on that bridge, and I just paddled towards them. My family were incredible all the way through, and I think that’s why I find today so emotional. They’ve been part of this journey the whole time, and it’s been tough, it’s been really tough some of the time, and they’ve always been that constant.

“I had a really rocky nine months of feeling completely lost, and probably for the first time in my life I felt disabled. The help and support I got then was really crucial to getting me here today, both from family and the professionals we get support from.”

The wrist injury in 2018 took Wicks to the sporting crossroads. She battled on against the pain, which made the torment even greater, and started losing some of the love she had for the sport which had taken her to the top of the world stage.

Finally, after almost 12 months, Wiggs emerged from the fog. The transformation had not been easy, but the sparkle was back in her eyes, and she was attacking her races with a new focus.

“I’ve learned so much about myself, I’ve done a lot of work to be more than just a paddler, but I think that has helped me become a better paddler. I’m just so grateful,” she said on Friday.

“I’ve learned that its more important that you become more than just your sport. I’d become Emma Wiggs the canoeist rather than Emma Wiggs the person, so I’ve done a lot of work to become more than just a paddler.”

Four years ago Wiggs made history by winning a gold medal at the debut of paracanoe at the Paralympics. On Friday she etched her name into the record books again, this time by winning the first ever women’s va’a gold medal.

Wiggs was at pains to emphasise she was only one small cog in the wheel that helped create history again. Her family and friends were all acknowledged, as was the professional support, even the UK national lottery programme that helps fund Great Britain’s elite athletes.

“It’s just amazing to make history,” she said.

 “I carry this very soggy scratch card in my boat with me, because the lottery fund us as athletes, and that’s the reason that we are able to go out there and deliver on the world stage.”

Egged on by the media, Wiggs scratched the ticket to see if her luck really was in under those grey Tokyo skies. It wasn’t, but in so many ways on Friday, it was.

Pics by Dezso Vekassy

Great Britain Emma Wiggs Paralympics Tokyo

#ICFparacanoe #paracanoe