#48) GB’s Para-canoeists, Para-triathletes, Para-cycling & Wheelchair Tennis Stars


One of the best things about summer is the vast number of sporting events for armchair fans to indulge ourselves in.

The last week epitomised this perfectly – it seemed as though everywhere you looked there was a major international or domestic event happening.

Unfortunately this saturation does mean that some sports don’t get anywhere near the coverage they deserve, with para-sports often the first to be cut.

However that doesn’t mean their successes are any less impressive or important.

Great Britain has won a gluttony of medals over the last few days at the Para-canoe European Championships and World Cup, World Para-triathlon Series, Para-cycling World Cup and BNP Paribas World Team Cup.

And on pretty much every occasion it was our female stars who led the way.

Standing to at-ten-tion
Poznan has proved to be a very happy hunting ground for GB’s para-canoeists as they claimed a total of 15 medals on the Polish waters (at the time of writing).

First of all they bagged an impressive ten pieces of silverware – including three golds – at the Para-canoe European Championships before adding another five medals to their tally at the season’s first World Cup meet on the following days.

Of those medals, 11 have been won by four brilliant women – Emma Wiggs, Charlotte Henshaw, Laura Sugar and Jeanette Chippington MBE.

Wiggs and Henshaw claimed VL2 and KL2 golds respectively at both events, adding to the world titles they won back in August 2018.

We previously featured Henshaw after that victory as she became one of a very select handful of athletes to win major international medals in two sports, having also claimed Paralympic medals as a swimmer.

So impressive has she been since changing sports that she has become the only woman to ever really challenge Emma Wiggs in the KL2 category.

Wiggs has been almost unbeatable since she herself switched from sitting volleyball to para-canoeing and has collected a quantity of gold the Bank of England would be impressed with.

She added to that haul this week by defending her European VL2 title before emerging victorious in the same event at the World Cup, while also winning two KL2 silvers behind Henshaw.

Another to feature in that elite group of athletes with medals in more than one discipline is Chippington, who is quite simply a legend of Paralympic sport.

As a swimmer she won two titles and another 10 medals across five Paralympic Games from 1988-2004 before switching to para-canoeing in 2012 and adding a Rio 2016 gold alongside ten world and six European triumphs to her name.

She may not have appeared atop the podium this time but the 48-year-old proved she’s still right up there with the best as she secured another three medals.

As well as Henshaw, Chippington has now also been joined in the cross-sport medal club by Sugar as the former sprinter picked up an impressive European bronze at her first ever international event before adding a World Cup silver two days later.

Having only been training for a few months, the fact that Sugar was so close to claiming gold at the latter event is a sign that she has an incredibly promising career in the sport if she chooses to stick with it and that, if she does, it won’t be long before she’s regularly appearing on the top step.

With Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, the fact that these women are performing so well makes it an incredibly enticing prospect to see just how well they will fare on the world’s biggest stage in just over 15 months.

Anything you can do, I can do just as well
While her namesake was claiming a maiden world taekwondo title in Manchester at the weekend, Jade Jones-Hall was storming to her own success in Japan at the ITU World Para-triathlon Series.

The 2018 Commonwealth champion is yet another athlete who has excelled in multiple sports, having also claimed European and Commonwealth medals on the track and in marathons.

However it is in para-triathlon where she seems to excel as she claimed a superb PTWC title at the meet in Yokohama, beating 2016 world champion Kendall Gretsch by more than 30 seconds to add to victories at Gold Coast 2018 and the 2017 Europeans.

Given that Jones is only 23, you get the feeling that this is just the start of what will be a hugely successful career for her.

Yet another athlete who has successfully transitioned into a second sport is Claire Cashmore, who secured a second World Series silver at the meet.

Having won eight Paralympic medals – including one gold – as a swimmer, Cashmore converted to para-triathlon in early 2017 and has already become one of the world’s leading competitors in her category.

Her second-placed finish in Japan was the latest in an impressive run of results that also includes silvers won at last year’s European Championships and Grand Final, finishing behind Lauren Steadman in the latter.

Great Britain also won two more further medals at the event as Fran Brown finished second in the PTS2 race while Melissa Reid replicated her Paralympic bronze in the PTVI event.

As with the para-canoeists, this is a very exciting time for our para-triathletes – expect to see plenty more results like this over the next few years.

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it to the top
Great Britain is well established as one of the world’s most successful cycling nations and this was proven once again at the UCI Para-cycling World Cup in Belgium.

At least 14 medals travelled back over to our shores having been secured on the roads of Ostend, with nine of those claimed by our awesome female riders.

Katie Toft – competing as an independent racer – was the most successful, crossing the line first in both WC1 races, while Crystal Lane-Wright finished first and second in the WC5 road race and time trial respectively.

Rio 2016 individual pursuit champion Lora Fachie teamed up with Corrine Hall to pick up a silver in the WB road race and bronze in the time trial, while Karen Darke also brought home two silvers in the WH3 category.

There was also a bronze medal for Hannah Dines in the WT2 time trial, an athlete who shot to prominence back in March with her powerful article highlighting just how physically damaging racing with incorrect saddles can be for female athletes.

What was a huge shame though was that these results garnered perhaps the least media attention of all the events on this list.

For a nation that has such an obsession with cycling, we should be able to hear about the success of all our athletes in any major event they compete in, not just a select few.

The history makers
GB’s wheelchair tennis stars recorded their best ever performance at a World Team Cup last weekend by claiming three medals at this year’s event in Israel.

The most noteworthy result was a first men’s title since 2015 secured by Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid and Dermot Bailey as they thrashed France in the final.

However the record-breaking weekend began with a bronze medal for the women as Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker – who have won two Paralympic bronze medals as a doubles pairing – overcame their South African opponents with relative ease.

If anything the result was slightly disappointing for the women as the quartet – also featuring Cornelia Oosthuizen and Louise Hunt alongside ten-time Grand Slam champion Whiley — narrowly failed to beat second seeds Japan in the semi-final.

However there were plenty of positives to take from the tournament, including a dominant win over France and a sensational victory over China, who had reached the final in each of the last three years.

And with Ruby Bishop also part of the junior team that secured a superb silver medal, with future for British women’s wheelchair tennis looks very, very bright.

 

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