Tokyo Paralympic champions Peter Kiss, Emma Wiggs, Curtis McGrath and Charlotte Henshaw were among the pacesetters on the opening day of the ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg, setting fastest times in their qualifying heats and moving closer to earning their countries quotas for next year’s Paralympic Games.

McGrath was making his return to racing after taking most of 2022 off, and showed the break had done him no harm by setting a world-best time in his heat of the men’s KL2.

McGrath made history in Tokyo by becoming the first paracanoe athlete to win two gold at a single Games, and will be looking to repeat the performance in Paris.

“It’s nice to be back, in a way its hard to get back into it physically, but mentally you just want to get back into it again,” McGrath said.

“Time away from something makes you grow fonder of it. I was actually really nervous, but its nice to go straight through to the final, it’s a little less work.

“I’m definitely a lot sorer for longer then when I started, so my recovery is taking longer, and I have a bit of a niggle in my shoulder, so that’s all something we have to manage.”

Australia Curtis McGrath Duisburg 2023

Two-time Paralympic gold medalist Emma Wiggs showed she is ready for another big campaign by posting the quickest time in the women’s VL2. The British paddler said it was good to confirm she was paddling well after a big lead-up.

“I’ve just gone all out, it felt good, its been a pretty tough year, so seeing it start to come together in the past couple of weeks is a real boost to my confidence,” Wiggs said.

“It’s not getting any easier, but I still love it, and that’s the main thing.”

Hungary’s Peter Kiss laid down an early warning shot in the men’s KL1, the Tokyo champion posting the fastest time in a competitive field.

“I’ve been a bit sick, but my preparations have been good,” Kiss said.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to hopefully next year. But I have a lot of training before Paris. Of course I feel some pressure, but I’ve enjoyed this feeling.”

VL3 will be a new addition to the Paralympic Games next year, with Great Britain’s Hope Gordon putting in the fastest qualifying time in Duisburg on Wednesday. Teammate and reigning world champion, Charlotte Henshaw, is concentrating on the KL2 in Duisburg, and while that opens up the field for the world title, Gordon said she is missing racing her friend.

“I kind of really miss her, to be honest, especially come the final,” Gordon said.

“I’ve never done an international final without one of my teammates by my side, I find a lot of comfort having a teammate right beside me, but we’ve each got our own individual jobs to do for the team this week.”

Henshaw showed her appreciation for her reduced Duisburg program with an effortless victory in the women’s KL2, an event where she’ll hope to defend her Paralympic title next year.

In the men’s VL2, reigning world champion Igor Tofalini pipped his Brazilian teammate and defending Paralympic champion, Fernando Rufino, with the fastest qualifying time.

Australia’s Dylan Littlehales was quickest in the men’s KL3, where one of the surprise paracanoe performances on the opening day came from Senegal’s Edmond Sanka. He posted the second-fastest heat time in the men’s KL3. The former soldier, who lost his right leg in a military accident, said a change of equipment had drastically improved his times.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Great Britain Emma Wiggs Duisburg 2023