Australia’s Sprint Kayak and Paracanoe team claimed three gold, one silver and one bronze on a memorable day of racing at the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships.
Some rain delays in the morning session, made for an action packed afternoon of racing with back-to-back finals on the Regattabahn Duisburg course.
Dual Paralympian Dylan Littlehales, a New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athlete, won his first World Championships gold medal of his career in the men’s KL3 200 final.
23-year-old Littlehales, who has been paddling at the World Championships since he was 15 years old, was lost for words over the achievement.
“I’ve got great memories here in Duisburg, qualifying my first ever Paralympics here, so to be able to come back and get my first World Championship…I just hope racing is here more often,” Littlehales said.
“This might be one of Australia’s best ever days for medals – to be able to see Curt, Susan, Jean and Ben…everyone doing so well and putting Australia top of the medal tally.
“It’s just been an incredible day all round.”
Ben Sainsbury won Australia’s first medal of the World Championships, gold in the men’s KL1 200 final.
It was back-to-back medals for Sainsbury, who also took out the title at last years’ World Championships.
“It’s such a good feeling…up on the podium, looking at the Australian flag, it doesn’t get better than that,” Sainsbury said.
“To be able to call myself a back-to-back World Champion, it’s a little surreal at the moment, it’s special that’s for sure,” he said.
Curtis McGrath won his 11th World Championships gold medal of his career, winning the men’s KL2 200 final.
McGrath crossed the line in a time of 40.200 seconds, 0.495 seconds faster than Wednesday’s heat, to record another world’s best time.
“It’s pretty special, especially after a year off just to prove myself and come back amongst a really strong field,” McGrath said.
“And even more stoked because it gives us a quota spot for the Paris Games, which is great.
“It’s only half the job done for me though, there’s still work to be done tomorrow and the next day, so hopefully we can capitalise on that.
“But it’s nice to have the kayak, and a little bit of weight off my shoulders, knowing that I was able to get the win today,” he said.
Jean van der Westhuyzen added his name to the medal tally, winning silver in a red hot men’s K1 500 final.
Dual Paralympian Susan Seipel returned to the World Championships podium, with a bronze medal in the women’s VL2 200 final.
The Men’s K4 500 crew of Riley Fitzsimmons (NSWIS), Pierre van der Westhuyzen, Noah Havard and Jackson Collins came agonisingly close to a top-3 finish, missing the podium by 0.274 seconds. There was much to celebrate, with the result confirming a spot on the startline for the boat in Paris 2024.
In a red hot women’s K4 500 field, the Australian Women’s K4 boat of Ella Beere (NSWIS), Aly Bull, Ally Clarke and Yale Steinepreis also confirmed a spot for the boat in Paris, finishing fifth in the Final. The fantastic results for both K4 crews starts what’s set to be a massive 11 months for the Aussies, with selections to be decided in 2024.
In other results for the Australian team, young guns Kailey Harlen and Natalia Drobot (NSWIS) finished fifth in their first ever World Championships final, the women’s K2 200.
Australian canoeist Ben Manning rounded out the day for the Australian team with an eighth place in the men’s C1 500 B Final.
Australia now sits atop of the medal tally, with three gold, one silver and one bronze.
Racing will get back underway on Saturday 26 August 2023 at 4:55pm AEST.
For the full schedule and results – click here
The 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships will be live streamed via the Planet Canoe Recast channel – click here
Story and Photograph courtesy of Paddle Australia