Hungarian teenager Peter Kiss and three champions from Rio in 2016 won the four gold medals on offer on the first day of paracanoe finals at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday.

Australia’s Curtis McGrath and Ukraine’s Serhii Yemelianov both successfully defended the gold medals they won in Brazil, while Wiggs won the first ever women’s Va’a final.

18-year-old Kiss became the youngest ever paracanoe Paralympic gold medalist and the first teenager to triumph after posting a convincing win in the men’s KL1 final. Kiss smashed his own personal best time to finish more than two seconds ahead of Brazil’s Luis Carlos Cardoso da Silva, with Frenchman Remy Boulle third.

“This is such a wonderful feeling, to be here and having won almost every competition in the past three years,” Kiss said.

“I’m pretty satisfied that I have managed to achieve so much at such a young age. Obviously there is much more to come, but I really feel the work we have done has paid out.”

McGrath and Yemelianov both continued incredible runs of success which have seen both athletes unbeaten since winning gold in Rio five years ago.

But McGrath had some nervous moments, having to progress through the KL2 semi-finals after almost being disqualified in his heat when he nearly paddled out of his lane. He said the isolation of being locked down in Australia had made it hard to prepare for Tokyo.

“The biggest distraction for me has been not being able to compete, not being able to put the pressure on myself and put the pressure on everyone else,” McGrath said.

“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to blow out the cobwebs yesterday and rectify the faults from yesterday.

“In Rio it was all so new to me, now I’m more experienced, a little bit older, but I felt really comfortable. Yes the nerves get up, but that means it means something to me. I’m super happy with my performance.”

Ukraine Serhii Yemelianov paracanoe Tokyo Paralympics 2021

Yemelianov also faced the toughest challenge in five years of racing, with Leonid Krylov of the Russian Paralympic Committee pushing the Ukranian all the way to the finish.

Just point one of a second ended up splitting the pair, with Great Britain’s Robert Oliver taking the bronze six weeks after being diagnosed with Covid.

“it’s a difficult job, a big job. Five years is a long time and I’m very tired, I want a vacation,” Yemelianov said.

“This was a close race because it is the Paralympic Games. It’s not the European or World championships or a world cup, this is much more difficult because it is the Paralympic Games.”

Tears flowed freely for Emma Wiggs after her victory in the women’s VL2. In Rio she won gold in the women’s KL2, but had struggled since those Games with a persistent wrist injury which had threatened to derail her career.

“I had a really rocky nine months of feeling completely lost, and probably for the first time in my life I felt disabled,” Wiggs said.

“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.

“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.”

Australia’s Susan Seipel took the silver medal, with British teammate Jeanette Chippington taking the bronze to maintain her perfect record of winning a medal at all of her seven Paralympic appearances.

Five gold medals will be on offer on Saturday, the finals day of the paracanoe Paralympic programme, with Australia’s McGrath and Great Britain’s Wiggs both in the running to create Paralympic history by winning a second gold medal at a single Games.

Find full results, athlete biographies and other Paraylmpic information on our ICF events page.

Pics by Dezso Vekassy

Great Britain Emma Wiggs Paralympics Tokyo

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