Paralympic silver medallist Amanda Reynolds will be among a small group of Rio athletes competing at this weekend’s season-opening canoe sprint Grand Prix in Adelaide.
Reynolds will be joined by fellow Paralympian, Jocelyn Neumueller, and Olympic K4 1000 crew member Riley Fitzsimmons at the first of three Grand Prix events.
The Victorian won silver in the women’s KL3, beaten by just 0.03 of a second by British paddler Anne Dickens, and will compete in 1000, 500 and 200 metre events this weekend.
Fitzsimmons is the only member of the Olympic team competing, and says it’s good to be back competing.
“I’ve really been forcing myself to stay off the water as long as possible,” he said this week.
“I really needed to just enjoy life again and be a normal 20-year-old after Rio. I’ve been back at work as a carpenter earning money again, and out socialising with friends and family.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my break, and as a new season of kayaking starts up again my body feels so rested and fresh for racing again. I just have to do some training now.”
Fitzsimmons will compete in the K1 and K4 in Adelaide, and the 20-year-old is hoping to make his mark ahead of selection for next year’s U23 World Championships.
Fitzsimmons and his Rio teammate, Jordan Wood, won gold in the K2 1000 at the 2015 U23 World Championships.
“With the other guys not racing this weekend there’s been a big focus on trialling some new under-23 team boats, so I want to be there to put my name in the mix with the other guys,” he said.
“It would be so good if later next year we could go to the under-23 worlds with some really world class combinations.”
Even though many of the Olympians and Paralympians are not competing this weekend, several paddlers who were on the cusp of selection will be in action and pushing hard to make an early impact.
Bill Bain, Callum Dunn, Jaime Roberts and Cat McArthur are among the athletes expected to push for selection for Tokyo 2020 who will be competing at West Lakes.
Fitzsimmons will team up with Bain and Queenslanders Jy Duffy and Joel McKitterick in the K4 1000.
He said his Rio experience has given him increased motivation.
“After the Olympics I feel like I’ve matured more as a kayaker,” he said.
“Even though it was heart-breaking to be close to a podium, the experience was something I’ll never forget. I definitely have no regrets about anything.
“That result is now something that is motivating me to do better again. It’s in the back of my mind every time I pick up my kayak to get on the water and every time I get off the water.”
Grand Prix 1 will be held at West Lakes, Adelaide, starting Friday and running through until Sunday.
Race information and live results will be available via: AC Regatta website