The Paracanoe competition at the Tokyo Paralympic Games ran from 2-4 September, with NZ proudly represented by Scott Martlew and Corbin Hart. Both Kiwis performed strongly, finishing 4th and 13th in their respective kayaking events. Scott then lined up in the Va’a VL3 event, making the A Final and finishing 8th. The paddlers were supported in Tokyo by Scott’s personal coach, Leigh Barker.
In the KL2 event, Scott won his heat, going straight through to the A Final without having to contest the semifinal. In the final, he set a time of 42.880, with the gold medal going to Curtis McGrath (Australia) in a time of 41.426. Silver was won by Mykola Syniuk (Ukraine). Federico Mancarella (Italy) pipped Scott for Bronze.
Scott said: “Obviously, I’m a little bit disappointed in 4th, but still proud of how I went. I gave it my all. I’m proud of the journey to get here and I want to thank everyone for all their support and just blown away by all the support form back home.”
Scott finished 8th in his Va’a final. The race was won by flying Aussie Curtis McGrath, who claimed a second gold in two days. Incidentally, McGrath, an Afghanistan war veteran who lost both legs to a landmine whilst serving in the Australian military, is Kiwi- he was born in NZ and grew up in Queenstown.
Corbin Hart has had a remarkable journey to Tokyo, which has been well documented here previously. He’s been paddling for just one year, training under coach Gavin Elmiger at North Shore Canoe Club. Corbin finished finished 5th in the B Final, meaning he placed 13th overall. The Gold was won by the dominant Ukrainian Serhii Yemelianov in a time of 40.355. Leonid Krylov (Not Russia) won Silver and Robert Oliver (Great Britain) earned Bronze.
Corbin said: “It’s a whole lot of mixed feelings, all the things, you know. It’s pretty unreal to think that I’ve done this within a year, so I look forward to the future. Another three years, building toward Paris, which is looking very promising!(Today) wasn’t the best. I had a bit of a technical difficulty with my leg, it got jammed at the front of my seat, so I had to slow up and try and unjam it and carry on, so I kind of had to catch back up and get 5th. It’s not bad. I’m pretty happy with how my semi went and it was probably the best performance I have ever had. You win some you lose some!”
Both Kiwi athletes plan to continue paddling towards Paris 2024, so the future is bright for para kayaking in NZ. Hopefully, Corbin and Scott’s strong performances and inspiring stories go some way towards putting para kayaking on the map here. CRNZ would welcome inquiries from any aspiring para paddlers – please contact Aaron.firstname.lastname@example.org for info!