New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athletes Riley Fitzsimmons and Dylan Littlehales made significant contributions to the Australian teams’ medal tallies at the 2024 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup & Paracanoe World Championships being staged at Szeged, Hungary.

The Aussies produced five podium performances on the third day of racing, including the gold medal that went to Olympic gold medalists Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen after they dominated the men’s K2 500 final to seal gold.

The Aussie crew pulled together the perfect race that saw them storm home in first place ahead of world champions Joao Ribeiro and Messias Baptista (POR) in second and Spain’s Adrian del Rio and Marcus Cooper in third.

“We’ve lined up in this event so many times, and we’ve been on the podium before but we hadn’t got that top step yet, so our patience has paid off today,” Green said.

“It’s been hard the last two years trying to figure out what kind of race plan is going to work for us, and we’ve had some close races and some races where we’ve been pretty disappointed,’ Jean van der Westhuyzen said.

“So to have a good race, this year, leading into the Games it’s great, but we’ve still got weeks of hard work to go so that we can be even better in Paris,” he said.

In the men’s K4 500 final, the Australian crew of Fitzsimmons, Jackson Collins, Pierre van der Westhuyzen and Noah Havard finished second to take out the silver medal.

After finishing fifth at the 2023 World Championships, the Aussies were determined to put their best foot forward at their first and final regatta before the Paris Games.

“It’s been a pretty long runway into this World Cup – the four of us have come a really long way from where we were last year so it’s a good little confidence boost, this result, and the next 12 weeks are going to be really important,” said two-time Olympian Fitzsimmons.

“It lets us know that we can do it, we’re right there in the medals, and it’s going to make us really hungry as we continue to build into Paris.

“We won our heat and were lucky enough to get straight through to the final,” added Pierre van der Westhuyzen.

“We were put into lane five, in the middle, and were right in the race from the start. We raced our race plan, and it worked out…we won a silver medal so we’re pretty stoked with that,” he said.

“It’s good to know that the work we’ve been doing is paying off,” Collins said.

“It’s nice to know that we’re right on the pace, and sets us up well for a big four weeks at home before our last block in Szolnok leading into the Games.”

After winning his maiden World Championship title last year in Germany, two-time Paralympian Dylan Littlehales finished second in the men’s KL3 200 final, winning silver.

The day after winning his 12th World Championships title yesterday in the kayak, Curtis McGrath backed it up to win bronze in the men’s VL3 200 final.

“This World Championships has been really hard racing, I’ve really had to work hard to get onto the podium…it’s really tightened up and there’s some really good competition out there,” McGrath said.

“From here, we’ll go home and really hone in on training, work on the improvement points and work on the things that will hopefully get us higher on the podium come Paris,” he said.

Super mum Alyce Wood made her return to the women’s K1 1000 podium, winning gold for the first time since her 2017 World Championship title.

“I’m very happy with that result, I haven’t done the 1000 metres in a long time. I won Worlds in 2017, so it’s good to be back,” Wood said.

“I’m over the moon…My 500m race plan is all about having some really good, long strokes, so the 1000m is the perfect way to practice that.

“Obviously to come out with the win gives me great confidence leading into the 500m, and the middle part of my race.

“I’m very, very happy,” she said.

The Aussie contingent will return to the water for the final day of racing at the 2024 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup and Paracanoe World Championships today from 4pm AEST.


Story: Paddle Australia

Photos, Bence Vekassy

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