2016 and Beyond: A New Hope for Paracanoe Athletes
Wold at the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paracanoe Team Trials for Flatwater Sprint
Padilla (Gig Harbor, Wash.) was a professional snowboarder. Joshua Wold (Tumwater, Wash.) was an
Army Ranger sniper. Both men would go on to represent the U.S. at the 2012
Paracanoe World Championships in Poznan, Poland, May 16-17.
Right after high school, Padilla, 32, headed north to Mount
Baker where he lived in a camper and snowboarded everyday. He began to get
noticed by sponsors and would spend 10 months out of the year travelling to
Padilla stopped snowboarding to run his own construction
company. On April 16, 2007, a two-story wall fell down on him. He broke nearly
every rib and numerous vertebrae, punctured a long, and is now a T12
“I should’ve died, but I scrambled out from underneath it
and called an ambulance,” Padilla said.
Wold, 26, was serving in Baghdad, Iraq, when his vehicle
drove over an improvised explosive device (IED) on September 2, 2007. Three
people were injured. Wold suffered brain damage, hearing loss and lost over
half of his right foot.
After initially thinking Wold just stubbed his toe, he
applied his own tourniquet. He was taken out of the Green Zone by helicopter.
Shrapnel had torn through his foot, cutting off circulation. Doctors performed
a tarsometatarsal amputation.
Five years after these life-changing events and the two Gig
Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team (GHCKRT) members would compete in their first
competitive Paracanoe race - the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paracanoe Team Trials
for Flatwater Sprint in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, April 20-21.
Each would place first to earn their spot on the 2012 U.S.
World Championships Team. At Trials, Wold won in the Men’s Legs, Trunk and Arms
200m race while Padilla finished first in the Arms Only 200m race.
Joining them in Oklahoma City was Alan Anderson, Head Coach of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team,
which won the 2012 U.S. National Championship team title in Seattle in August. Anderson
recruited both athletes and would love to see his club become a U.S. hub for
Paracanoe, which will make its Paralympic debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de
Wold had been paddling flatwater sprint kayaks for three
weeks prior to the 2012 Team Trials. His first taste of kayaking came in 2008
during rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid on the campus of the Brook
Army Medical Center in San Antonio. It was there that 1996 Olympic slalom
kayaker Ben Kvanli taught him how to
kayak in a pool.
Kvanli coordinates the San Antonio chapter of Team River Runner, a nonprofit organization
designed to get wounded soldiers out of the water and paddling. After a few
pool sessions, Kvanli and Wold made the trip to the whitewater of the San
Marcos River. Adjusting to the speed of flatwater sprint kayaking has taken
some getting used to for Wold.
“It’s great,” Wold said. “A little discouraging at this
point in time, because I just got in a boat and I’m getting beat by a bunch of
12 and 13-year-olds. Besides that, it’s really good. Alan’s a great coach. He
pulls me aside a lot and works with me one-on-one.”
Wheelchair sports didn’t excite Padilla. But he enjoyed
working out and the strength advantage it gave him when he first stepped in a
canoe, less than a year before the 2012 Team Trials. It didn’t hurt that
Padilla was no stranger to competition.
“Any kind of competition is somewhat the same, you’re going
up against somebody else,” Padilla said. “In snowboarding, everyone’s having a
good time and enjoying the competition and feeding of each other, so I think
that helps. I don’t get uptight in a competition situation.”
In his return to competitive sports, Padilla placed fourth
in the Men’s K-1 Final, finishing nearly four seconds behind the bronze medal
winner. Padilla also reached the Men’s V-1 Final. Wold reached the semifinals
for Men’s K-1 Legs, Trunk and Arms.
“I’m excited about the Paracanoe movement and what it means
to this country and what it means to my community and my club,” Anderson said. “Working
with athletes with disabilities is inspiring to the young kids. When Ryan falls
out of his boat and gets right back in it and keeps going in that frigid water
that we train in and does the long mileage that everybody else does, the kids
they stop complaining so much. It’s good for them to see.”
Canoe/Kayak Board Chair Bob Lally hopes to see more athletes like
Padilla and Wold join the Paracanoe movement at all levels, from club competition
to racing for Team USA.
“USA Canoe/Kayak is truly excited that ParaCanoe is now a
Paralympic discipline,” Lally said. “Our focus and goal over the next four
years ramping up for the 2016 Paralympic Games are equal to all our other
Olympic disciplines and that is to compete and win on the world stage.
“It goes without saying that the characteristics and
attributes of water in itself are therapeutic. Our vision is to give all our disabled
men and women the opportunity to paddle on our nations’ lakes, ponds and/or
2016 and Beyond: U.S. Sprint Canoe Athletes Retrace Their Roots
USA Canoe/Kayak is a non-profit membership organization based in
Oklahoma City, OK, promoting canoe and kayak racing in the United States. A
member of the United States Olympic Committee, USA Canoe/Kayak is the national
governing body for the Olympic sports of Flatwater Sprint and Whitewater Slalom
and the official U.S. federation of the International Canoe Federation. Other
paddling sports sanctioned by USACanoe/Kayak include Marathon, Freestyle,
Wildwater, Stand Up Paddleboard, Canoe Polo, Canoe Sailing, Outrigger, and
Dragon Boat. For more information about USA Canoe/Kayak, please visit us on the
web at www.usack.org, on Twitter at @usacanoekayak and Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/USACanoeKayak.