More than 170 athletes from over 40 countries, including every gold medalist from last year, will compete this week in the 2019 ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, with Tokyo 2020 Paralympic spots also on the line.

Australian duel gold medalist Curtis McGrath leads an impressive list of multiple world champions who are just one year away from possibly competing in their second Paralympic Games, after paracanoe made a successful debut in Rio in 2016.

McGrath took time off this year to get married, but is back to defend his KL2 and VL3 world titles. The VL3 is one of three new medal events to be added to the Paralympic program, and McGrath is eying off a winning double in Tokyo after winning KL2 gold in Rio.

“I feel a little bit more at ease, knowing what to expect because I’ve been in this position before,” McGrath said.

“The main goal this week is to get those quota spots for Australia rather than the podium finishes, but the secondary goal is podiums. I would love to be able to defend my medals, but we will have to wait and see.

“I’m feeling pretty good, I’m feeling pretty confident, and the training’s been quite good. We’ve got a new coach for the paracanoe team and that’s changed a few things, but it’s been nice and fresh and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Poland’s Jakub Tokarz won the first ever KL1 paracanoe gold medal at the Rio Olympics, but Italy’s Estaban Farias has been the dominant figure in the race in recent years, winning the 2017 and 2018 world titles.

The pair will line-up alongside each other in Szeged, with Hungarian Olympic and world championship silver medalist Robert Suba and Brazil’s reigning world championship bronze medalist, Luis Silva, also likely to challenge for the podium.


Two-time Paralympic swimmer Charlotte Henshaw has taken the paddling world by storm since making her paracanoe debut for Great Britain after Rio. She won the women’s KL2 world title in Portugal last year, and feels she’s even stronger this year.

“I’ve got to go in, forget about everything else that goes on around it, and focus on delivering a process and delivering a race, which I’m excited to do,” Henshaw said.

“Yes it is the world championships, and yes it is the selection for the Paralympic Games, but we’ve got a bigger job to do here than personal aspirations. We want as many British boats as we can at the Games next year, that’s the real job this week.

“If we do well personally while we are doing that, great. I still feel very new, this is my first Paralympic cycle in this sport, and I still feel like I am soaking up a lot of knowledge from people, and I hope that continues.”

Her main rival is likely to once again be teammate Emma Wiggs, gold medalist in Rio in 2016 and world champion in 2017, but who has been battling a wrist injury for the past 12 months. Russia’s Nadezda Andreeva and Australia’s Susan Seipel are both consistent performers who will push for medals.

Sweden’s Helene Ripa is another athlete who has come to paracanoe from another sport, having won a winter Paralympic medal in cross-country skiing, and having also competed as a swimmer at the 1992 Paralympic Games.

Last year Ripa won gold in the KL3 in Portugal, and after missing this year’s world cup through injury, is back to defend her world title this week. Australia’s Amanda Reynolds, a silver medalist in Rio and at last year’s world championships, has been battling injuries of her own, but is determined to this week win back her world crown from 2017.

Ukraine’s Serhii Yemelianov has dominated the men’s KL3 since winning gold in Rio in 2016, and will start a red-hot favourite to win his third world championship title this week. The minor medalists from Portugal last year, Brazil’s Caio Carvalho and Russia’s Leonid Krylov, are both in Szeged.

His Ukranian teammate Maryna Mazhula has similarly dominated the women’s KL1 in recent times, having won the European title and gold at this year’s Paracanoe world cup to follow on from her world title last year.

She’ll be challenged this week by Italy’s Eleanora de Paolis and Great Britain’s Jeanette Chippington, silver and bronze medalists at last year’s world championships. Chippington won gold when the sport made its Paralympic debut in Rio.

In the Va’a events, Brazil’s Igor Tofalini and Luis Silva will be expected to once again fight out the finish after taking gold and silver last year, with reigning bronze medalist Marius Ciustea tipped to once again perform strongly.

Emma Wiggs will be favourite in the women’s VL2, with Russia’s Maria Nikiforova the biggest threat to the former GB sitting volleyballer.

The 2019 ICF Paracanoe World Championships begin in Szeged tomorrow.

Great Britain <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/78941' data-id='78941' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Charlotte Henshaw</a> Poznan 2019

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