Eight of the 2018 world champions are back in action for the Para canoe World Cup in Poznan, Poland, as the build up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics gathers pace from Thursday.
A record number of entries in the men’s VL3, one of three new medal events at next year’s Games, will be one of the highlights on the Poznan programme, which will also see several exciting rivalries renewed.
Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist and multiple world champion Curtis McGrath is one of the big names who will be missing next week. The Australian has been granted a team exemption but will be competing at the World Championships later this year.
Sweden’s Helene Ripa, triumphant in the women’s KL3 at the Worlds in Portugal last year, is also absent, but there is no shortage of Paralympic and world championship gold medallists who will take to the start line.
Great Britain’s Emma Wiggs and Australia’s Amanda Reynolds both battled illness and injury in Portugal and will be hoping to return to the top of the podium in their favoured events in Poznan.
Wiggs had her colours lowered by British teammate Charlotte Henshaw in the women’s KL2, and their match-up will be one of the highlights in Poznan.
Reynolds will look to take advantage of the absence of Ripa in the KL3.
Ukraine’s Serhii Yemelianov has been unbeatable in the men’s KL3 since winning gold in Rio. But he will be under pressure next week with Brazil’s World championship silver medallist Caio Carvalho and Russia’s bronze medallist Leonid Krylov among the big field of entries.
Italy’s Esteban Farias has likewise enjoyed excellent form in the men’s KL1. But the reigning world champion will need to stare down Rio gold medallist Jakub Tokarz of Poland and British bronze medalist Ian Marsden, if he is to remain on the top of the podium next week.
The absence of McGrath will throw the race for gold in the men’s KL2 wide open, with Austria’s Markus Swoboda, New Zealand’s Scott Martlew, Ukraine’s Mykola Syniuk and Great Britain’s Nicholas Beighton among the chances.
Likewise in the VL3, where a record 27 entries will battle for honours in the absence of world champion McGrath. Brazil’s Carvalho and Great Britain’s Jack Eyers filled the minor placings in Portugal last year and will fancy their chances in Poznan.
The women’s VL2 last year brought two of Britain’s most decorated Paralympians head-to-head, with Emma Wiggs outlasting Jeanette Chippington in the new Paralympic event. The pair will face off again next week, with Russian bronze medalist Mariia Nikiforova also expected to figure prominently.
Chippington finished a surprise third in the women’s KL1 last year and will once again face up to Ukraine gold medallist Maryna Mazhula and runner-up Eleonora de Paolis of Italy.
The men’s VL2 final produced one of the most emotional results in Portugal last year, when Brazil’s Igor Tofalini pipped teammate Luis Silva for the gold. The pair will lock horns again in another eagerly anticipated clash.
The Poznan World Cup runs until Saturday, and live results will be available on the ICF’s website.