The Paracanoe landscape in Australia is evolving at a rapid rate with a record field of 18 paddlers set to fight it out for selection at the National Sprint Championships at Champion Lakes, Western Australia from 3-7 April.
The increase in numbers is a positive step moving towards the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil where Paracanoe will makes its debut.
National Paracanoe Head Coach Andrea Wood described it as ‘very exciting.’
“Last year there were three men’s K1, two men’s V1 and one women’s K1 and V1 with the total number of entries being 4. This year, there are enough entries to constitute classes in all men’s K1 classifications. There are 13 men entered and 5 women,” she said.
Reigning 2012 and 2011 Australian Paracanoeists of the year Kara Kennedy and Brock Ingram are once again expected to lead the charge, with Ingram looking forward to the higher standard of competition this year.
“It is going to be great to see the new field. There are so many new faces out there and I know that we now have multiple athletes pulling world class times in a few of the categories,” he said.
“The growth has been amazing. Equipment has come a long way with two Australian manufacturers challenging the big name European brands and then there is the competition between athletes pushing the standard up.”
“The competition is great and we can expect great things in the future.”
The Western Australian is the reigning men’s LTA Australian champion who will be challenged by Queensland’s Peter Nipperess and Victorian paddler Donnie Elgin in the K1 200m, and by Michael Hall in the V1 200m.
Reigning men’s TA Australian Champion, Glenn Pyne will be pushed all the way by young up and coming 15 year old Andrew Stiles and South Australian Sam Germein in the K1 200m, while Pyne will also battle in out with Germein in the V1 200m.
Kennedy will face some competition in the women’s A K1 200m from Western Australian Kathy Mallory and will be pushing for a suitable time in the V1 200m for selection to the Australian Sprint Canoe Team.
For the first time at the Nationals there will be women’s LTA competitors with former Paralympic swimmer Amanda Drennan racing against South Australian Melissa Bussenschutt, with both women nominated to the Sprint Team and are hoping to produce improved times in the battle for selection.
The men’s A K1 200m will be another first and this should be a hotly contested race with six paddlers set to do battle on the Champion Lakes course.
New South Welshman Colin Sieders currently holds the upper hand after he was the best placed athlete in the arms only category at Grand Prix 2 and 3 earlier in the year.
Victoria’s Gary Connor, Queensland duo Paul Bailey and Matt Speakman, New South Welshman Andrew Williams and South Australian Mick McIntyre will all be looking to throw the gauntlet down to Sieders next week in what promises to be an exciting example of what Paracanoe racing is all about.
Speakman is particularly looking forward to the battle with Sieders, and plans to attack Nationals with the mentality of winning the Australian title.
“Colin (Sieders) is my main opponent, at the last competition he raced a 59 second time.”
“I have been racing PBs in training and getting down towards the 59s mark so looking forward to getting out there.”
There will be an added incentive for victory next week with the first ever V8 versus Porsche battle to be decided on water with both paddlers heralding from a professional motorsport background.
Sieders owns his own team in the V8 Development Series while Speakman is a GT3 Porsche driver in the Nations Cup, and was the first ever man in the world to race in a Porsche series in a wheelchair.
Asked if this brings any additional rivalry Speakman responded, “Absolutely, because we come from two different classes Porsche and V8s and the V8s have are known for being two to three seconds faster than the Porsche so it will be a case of the first ever Porsche and V8 showdown next week.”
The National Championships get underway at Champion Lakes on Wednesday 3 April and conclude on Sunday 7 April, with Paracanoe action to get underway on Thursday with the 1000m distances to be contested first.
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