Spain, Poland and China are one step closer to qualifying four athletes for next year’s Paris Olympics after all four crews won their heats of the women’s K4 500 on the opening day of racing at the ICF Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg on Wednesday.

There are ten Olympic boat quotas available in both the men’s and women’s K4, and all will be allocated this week. The top ten must include boats from at least four continents. Spain, Poland and China are straight into Friday’s final.

The biggest names in world sprint and paracanoe paddling all took to the water on Wednesday, and while most cruised through to the next rounds, many also had to work hard to stay in the hunt for coveted Paris 2024 quotas.

New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington, Hungary’s Adam Varga and Romania’s Catalin Chirila were among the athletes who showed they are in good sprint form, comfortably winning their heats in perfect racing conditions.

In paracanoe racing there were strong performances from four of the Tokyo Paralympic gold medalists, with Curtis McGrath, Charlotte Henshaw, Peter Kiss and Emma Wiggs all posting fastest times in their qualifying heats.

Carrington is chasing a fourth Olympic Games, and already has five gold medals. Her K1 500 time on Wednesday wasn’t the fastest, but after racing the K4 in the morning she was more focused on getting through the K1 comfortably.

“I felt good, the nerves were good, such a different focus from the K4 this morning, I just really enjoyed being out on the water, it was really beautiful out there,” Carrington said.

“I just think to be able to keep paddling, and still be good enough to be here, I’m super grateful for that.”

New Zealand Lisa Carrington Duisburg 2023

Germany’s Jakob Thordsen posted the quickest qualifying time in a competitive round of men’s K1 1000 heats. Former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, Fernando Pimenta, said while he would love to be world title holder again, his big focus is Paris.

“I think the quota for Paris is the most important thing right now, because we have six places and we know there are a lot of good athletes with very good performances, and I want to fight for this.”

Catalina Chirila, the defending men’s C1 1000 world champion, easily posted the quickest time in his heats, while Cuba’s Yarisleidis Cirilo Duboys posted the fastest time in the women’s C1 200.

In the women’s C2 500 it was the Canadian pairing of Sloan MacKenzie and Katie Vincent who were fastest qualifiers.

Portugal Fernando Pimenta Duisburg 2023

McGrath was making his return to paracanoe 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.

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.”

In other paracanoe races, Great Britain’s Charlotte Henshaw and Hope Gordon posted the quickest times in the KL2 and the VL3 respectively, Dyland Littlehales was fastest in the men’s KL3, while world champion Igor Tofalini pipped his Brazilian teammate and defending Paralympic champion, Fernando Rufino, with the fastest qualifying time in the men’s VL2.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Romania Catalin Chirila Duisburg 2023

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