McGrath ready to build on incredible 2016

Canoe Sprint / Featured / General / Paracanoe / Feb 2, 2017

Even if he wanted to, Australian para-canoeist Curtis McGrath has no chance of putting his 2016 achievements to one side.

Not that he wants to, of course, because 2016 was a phenomenal year for the Australian soldier who paddled his way to the title of best para-canoeist in the world and Paralympic gold medallist.

And since Rio there’s hardly been a week go by that something happens to remind him what he achieved.

“I get to go into my study and see my medal and the other things we got to take home, it was so great to come away from the Games with mementos,” McGrath said.

“And every now and then I get a nomination for an award to remind me of the enormity of what has happened in the last four years. I am pretty stoked to say the least.

“Post Games was really busy. I was expecting it to be, which was good. I have had so many great opportunities to attend events and awards nights.”

McGrath was already a household name in Australia even before he climbed onto the gold medal podium in Rio. The story of the soldier who stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, lost both his legs, but managed to promise his rescuers they would see him at the Paralympics, is the stuff of legend.

This weekend McGrath gets back on the water, competing in a full book of races at Canoeing Australia’s second Grand Prix event in Sydney.

He said while it was tough getting back into training, he also admits the time away from the water felt unusual, and even a little uncomfortable.

“It was really hard, I was enjoying having a few extra hours of sleep in the morning,” he said.

“What I missed about training was that it gives you a great routine, so you have a structure around life. I was all over the place when I got back, travelling around the country and going to this and that, so I felt I was losing touch with myself.

“The training routine has put me back on track so it’s good to be back out paddling.”

This year McGrath has set himself fairly simple goals. He wants to go to the World Championships and win gold, but he has a lot going on.

Expect a big announcement from McGrath in the near future; also expect to see the New Zealand-born Queenslander continue to do his utmost to promote para-canoe and canoeing general.

“This year is going to be a bit different for me,” he said.

“I want to go to World Champs and win, but because I have a lot of other things happening in my life, I will have to be ready for the competition to be a little closer to me.

“The limelight after I got back was good, sometimes tiring, but I like how the Paralympic movement is growing and that sprint canoe is getting more attention.

“I am excited to see what the next four years holds for sprint canoe and the Paralympics, and if I have to be in front of a camera to help them grow, that doesn’t bother me.”

McGrath is also enthusiastic about the strong bond the Australian para-canoe group has formed. 2016 was the debut of the sport at the Paralympics, and Australia finished with a gold (McGrath), silver (Amanda Reynolds) and bronze (Susan Seipel), and second overall on the medal table behind Great Britain.

“It will be great to be back out of the course and see how my slower approach to training this year has faired,” McGrath said.

“I’m not expecting world records, but its always good to see where you’re at. I love to race so its going to be exciting, and I’m also keen to see Dylan Littlehales ripping it up and Colin Sieders in a V1.”

Grand Prix 2 begins on Friday at the Sydney International Regatta Centre and runs through until Sunday.