Great Britain’s Jeanette CHIPPINGTON (GBR), Emma WIGGS (GBR) and Anne DICKINS (GBR) picked up all three women’s gold medals on offer as paracanoe made a thrilling Paralympic Games debut on Thursday.
CHIPPINGTON’s gold in the women’s KL1 was her 13th Paralympic medal and third gold, adding to the two golds and 10 other medals she won in swimming between Seoul 1988 and Athens 2004.
Behind her, Edina MULLER (GER) won her third Paralympic medal, following up from wheelchair basketball gold at London 2012 and silver at Beijing 2008.
WIGGS triumphed over Nataliia LAGUTENKO (UKR) in the women’s KL2 by more than 2.3 seconds, the biggest winning margin of the day. The athlete switched to paracanoe after representing Great Britain in sitting volleyball at London 2012.
Four years ago DICKINS had not even considered paracanoe. She volunteered at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and was encouraged to take up the sport as a result.
She described her win in the women’s KL3 event over Amanda REYNOLDS (AUS) as a “crazy end to a crazy story”. REYNOLDS rued the closeness of the race with the margin just 0.03 seconds.
In the men’s events the gold medals were split between three nations. Jakub TOKARZ (POL) had to come through the semifinal to qualify for the men’s KL1 final after finishing third in his heat, but produced a stunning performance to seize gold ahead of Robert SUBA (HUN) and Ian MARSDEN (GBR).
The men’s KL2 race followed the pattern of this year’s world championships with the three medallists finishing in the same order as they did in Duisburg, Germany, in May.
Army veteran Curtis McGRATH (AUS) followed up his world championship title with Paralympic gold ahead of Markus SWOBODA (AUT) and fellow veteran Nick BEIGHTON (GBR).
In the men’s KL3 race, world championship silver medallist Serhii YEMELIANOV (UKR) went one better to beat world champion Tom KIEREY (GER) by less than 0.1 seconds.
Caio RIBEIRO DE CARVALHO (BRA) won a popular bronze, beating fourth-placed former world champion Iulian SERBAN (ROU) by 0.001 second.
Athletes praised the atmosphere at Lagoa Stadium, saying they were proud to have been part of the sport’s Paralympic debut. Women’s KL2 bronze medallist Susan SEIPEL (AUS) summed up the positive mood. “It’s an exciting sport to watch and to be a part of, so it can only go from strength to strength from here,” she said.