Emma Wiggs, Charlotte Henshaw and Laura Sugar all set Paralympic bests as Britain’s canoeists got their Tokyo adventures underway at the Sea Forest Waterway.
Wiggs stopped the clock in 58.084 seconds to lead the way in the women’s VL2, going straight through to the A final in an event that’s making its Paralympic debut.
She wasn’t done there, returning to the water and making a good start to the defence of her KL2 title by cruising through to the A final.
But the Paralympic best in the event is no longer hers, with that achievement taken on by ParalympicsGB teammate Charlotte Henshaw.
The 34-year-old stopped the clock in 52.794s to prove she is just as adept on the water as she is in it having won Paralympic swimming medals at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
“I put down a good performance, for me it was about blowing the cobwebs away, after 24 months without a race on the international stage,” she said.
“I am immensely proud to be in the final. I didn’t even know that was a Paralympic best time!”
The VL2 final could have more ParalympicsGB representation with Jeanette Chippington looking to join Wiggs when she goes in Friday’s semi-finals, having finished second in her heat.
Chippington had earlier gone in the first heat of the women’s KL1 event, finishing fifth in a time of 1:02.826 to progress to the semi-final, which takes place on Saturday.
Like Henshaw, Sugar represented ParalympicsGB at a different event at Rio 2016, taking to the start line for both the 100m and 200m T44 in athletics.
She too adapted to her new sport like a duck to water, reaching the KL3 final after finishing first in her heat.
Sugar did so in record-breaking time too, her 50.347s run beating the Paralympic best set by Great Britain’s Anna Dickins in Rio.
“I was a little bit oblivious in the race to where everyone else was,” said Sugar, who competed in wet conditions in Tokyo.
“I thought there was someone right next to me, so the whole last 50 metres, I was thinking, ‘you really need to grit your teeth’, but that is probably the best way for it to be.
“It was so hard. So I am happy to get it done and dusted and have got a great result.”
In the men’s KL2 class, David Phillipson was denied a heat win by the barest of margins, finishing second to Ukrainian Mykola Syniuk by just over half a second. He’ll now contest Friday’s semi-final race.
So too will Rob Oliver in the men’s KL3 event having finished third in his heat in a time of 41.820s.
Stuart Wood is the only Paralympic debutant in the canoe sprint team but is showing no signs of nerves in the men’s VL3, set for the semi-finals after finishing second in the heat.
Wood said: “It would have been nice to go straight through to the final of course, but it felt like a decent run.
“I feel good, the adrenaline was high for my first Paralympic race, but hopefully I will feel a little more relaxed for the next one.”
Ian Marsden had a scare on the start line when his boat tipped over just minutes before his men’s K1 race.
The 49-year-old recovered to finish fourth in his heat, meaning he too will compete in a semi-final tomorrow following an entertaining first day of competition.
Courtesy of ParalympicsGB