It has been a rollercoaster few weeks for 2016 Paralympians Curt McGrath, AJ Reynolds, Susan Seipel and Dylan Littlehales, who were the standout Para-canoeists at last month’s 2020 Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships.
With their performances, the team locked in their selection for the 2020 International Canoe Federation Para-canoe World Championships.
“It was really nice to have all the boxes ticked at Nationals. We have a good team and we were very happy about everyone’s performance this year,” said McGrath.
With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games now postponed until next year, and the 2020 World Championships expected to be rescheduled as well, McGrath is continuing to train, but admits it is hard to focus with the Games now 509 days away.
“I’m still training because I’m not sure what to do yet and I really enjoy what I do, but it’s difficult as I’m not sure what I’m doing right now has purpose or focus, and it’s been hard getting on the water each morning.
“But I feel by continuing what I’m doing and training, I hopefully find a plan and find a solution in terms of motivation and focus and looking towards the future in a positive light.
“I paddle a kayak … I can’t imagine the people that are directly affected by this COVID-19 … so far, I’ve been healthy and have come through it alright, but there are tens of thousands of people around the world and that’s heartbreaking to see. I’d like to see the end soon – hopefully we can find a vaccine and as a society, we can get back out on the water, start paddling again.”
Paralympic bronze medallist Seipel said:
“I will keep working towards my goal of the Tokyo Paralympics, but at the moment, it breaks my heart to see what is happening around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What is happening right now is way bigger and more important than sport, so keeping everything in perspective really helps to reset.
“I was always planning to continue to paddle beyond Tokyo, so I still have a lot of motivation to keep working hard and improve. Paddle Australia has been really supportive during this time, and has helped to organise some equipment so I can also train at home.
“It is definitely a strange feeling to not have any international competitions to look forward to this year, but with the extra time, it’s a good opportunity to make changes to technique and really work on the basics.”
All four Australian paddlers enjoyed a strong 2019 international and 2020 domestic season, with Reynolds impressing in her return from injury and Littlehales recording a series of personal bests.
“I’m a little bit disappointed [about the postponement], but also relieved, because we now know the new date after not knowing what was going on for a few weeks,” Littlehales said.
“I had a very good domestic season this year, and would have liked to keep that momentum going into Tokyo, but now that I know I can get to that level, I’m confident that I will be able to do it again in the coming months.”
Australia secured all four Paralympic quota spots at last year’s World Championships; the new qualification system for 2021 is yet to be confirmed.
President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Andrew Parsons said: “Now that the dates are confirmed, the IPC will work with the international federations to establish new qualification criteria which will fully respect those that have already qualified for the Games.”
Tokyo 2020 is scheduled to take place from 24 August to 5 September 2021.
By Paddle Australia
Photo with thanks to Paddle Australia / JGRImages