Scott Primed for Paralympic Challenge

For Tokyo-bound paddler Scott Martlew the one-year postponement to the Paralympic Games has undoubtedly worked in his favour.

After winning KL2 200m silver and bronze medals at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, respectively, in early-2020 he slipped and fell onto concrete while painting his garage and fractured his hip – dealing a big blow to his preparations.

Unable to sit in a boat for six weeks there is little doubt the unfortunate accident badly compromised Scott’s training, but the arrival of the global pandemic and the subsequent decision to postpone the Games by 12 months brought about a welcome opportunity to re-set his planning.

“Following the accident I tried to push through with gym training on the grinding machine and ski erg,” explains Christchurch-based Scott. “I was getting by with what I could. Of course, I would have given it everything to be ready for Tokyo (and the original date last year) but it may have been a blessing that the Games were postponed because it has allowed me a better build up.”

Training up to 14 times a week with eight to nine on water sessions on the Avon River under the long-time coaching of Leigh Barker has served Scott, a leg amputee, well.

However, a major boost to his training regime has been the opportunity to train with a squad of rising junior paddlers such as Thomas MacGibbon, Alex Hickman, the Marquet sisters – Brittany and Jess – and Thomas’ younger sister Natasha.

Nicknamed “Alpha Dog” by the group, Scott emphasises the key role played by the group in his Tokyo preparations.

“It is good to have these guys around and as the oldest paddler in the group, it has been quite cool to take them under my wing,” he explains. “We have a good squad atmosphere and nicknames for each other.

“It is really good to have them around. We train hard and push each but at the same time we have a laugh.”

In more recent months, Scott has gone about a relocation for his gym work. Previously he carried out his work at the Arawa Canoe Club but because of the cold weather in recent months he has based himself out of the High Performance Sport NZ facility at the Apollo Centre.

Here training in the same environment as the likes of three-time world champion shot putter Tom Walsh and Paralympic swimming superstar Sophie Pascoe – has added extra motivation for Scott.  

“I sometimes see the like of Tom and Sophie and many other different athletes,” he explains. “It is nice to rub shoulders with them and see their training too.”

Combining working 20 hours a week as an estimator for Downer has also provided a nice balance. Back in 2019 he was training and working anywhere up to 35 hours a week. However, the demands of working such hours and training proved too much and he became seriously fatigued on his journey to the 2019 World Championships.

Sensibly reducing his working hours plus a greater commitment to rest and recovery has proved a winning combination.

However, without an international regatta since winning bronze in the KL2 200m at the World Championships in Szeged – how has he managed to address this lack of competition?

“I’m definitely looking forward to racing again internationally,” he says. “In training I will try and visualise what it might be like to race in Tokyo. I’m also lucky to have some very good competitive racing in New Zealand. I love racing against the able-bodied guys. They really test me, it is a good challenge.”

At the 2021 NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships in May, Scott confirmed he was in very good shape. 

In the K1 1000m he finished second in the B Final and reached the semi-finals in K1 200m. In crew boats he took three medals; a silver medal in the Mixed K2 200m alongside Brittany Marquet and K2 200m and 1000m bronze medals paddling with Ben McCallum. 

“It was one of my best ever nationals. I was pleased with how I went in the K1 and in the team boats as well,” he adds. “I was training hard and going faster than ever before in training, so it was nice to see that it showed in the racing.”

Besides competing in the KL2 200m – Scott will also take to the water in the VL3 200m outrigger canoe in Tokyo. 

While the KL2 is his speciality event – his performance in reaching the final of the senior men’s final at the national waka ama championships was a seriously impressive display – which offers hope to a prominent showing in that event.

Flying to Japan in mid-August for his Paralympic quest, he will also be bolstered by the fact Scott will also not be the only paddler flying the Kiwi flag in Tokyo.

The Cantabrian has been selected alongside Aucklander Corbin Hart (see the pair pictured above) on the New Zealand paracanoe team after the latter qualified for the Games less than 12 months after first picking up a paddle. 

“It is awesome he has qualified a spot and it great to have him on the team,” adds Scott. “He seems like a great guy and easy to get along with.”

Scott, who finished eight at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games in the KL3 200m, has since been reclassified as a KL2 paddler and believes his experiences from five years earlier will stand him in good stead in the Japanese capital.

However, what does he hope to achieve?

“I’m a competitive person, so I’ll be aiming to win,” he explains. “The gold medal is the priority and I also have the outrigger canoe (VL3), where I’ll be also be looking to win a medal.”

Images: Georgia Schofield and Getty Images.