(The 2013 U.S. ParaCanoe Team and support staff in Duisburg)
Anja Pierce (Pittsford, N.Y.) won the Bronze medal in the women’s V-1 LTA final as the ParaCanoe racing concluded on Friday. The U.S. ParaCanoe Team won a total of 4 medals over the 3-day stretch.
Pierce’s time of 1:03.898 was +3.931 seconds behind the first place finisher – Andrea Green from Great Britain. It was Pierce’s 2nd World Championship medal after earning the Silver medal in the same event at last year’s World Championships in Poznan, Poland.
“I worked really hard this year and it feels good to be up there again,” Pierce said. “I was pleased with my time, which was a personal best. It really shows that high training pays off and I’m going to continue working hard to get back up on higher levels of the podium.”
WHAT: 2013 ICF ParaCanoe World Championships
WHERE: Duisburg, Germany
WHEN: August 28 – Sept. 1
WHO: the best adaptive paddlers from across the globe
Click HERE to coverage of Sprint World Championships for able-bodied paddlers.
Nik Miller (Virginia Beach, Va.) finished 9th in the men’s K-1 Arms B Final. His time of 48.306 was +5.586 seconds behind the race’s first place finisher. Ryan Padilla (Gig Harbor, Wash.) competed in the men’s K-1 Arms final, but his boat capsized and he did not finish the race.
Kelly Allen (San Marcos, Texas) placed 7th in the women’s K-1 LTA Final with a time of 59.220, which was +4.903 seconds behind the first place finisher. Greg Crouse (Fullerton, Calif.) finished 9th in men’s V-1 LTA Final with a time of 57.409, which was +6.796 seconds behind the first place finisher.
The ParaCanoe World Championships wrap up on Friday with Ryan Padilla (Gig Harbor, Wash.) and Anja Pierce (Pittsford, N.Y.) competing in the finals for men’s K-1 A and women’s V-1 LTA, respectively. Nik Miller (Virginia Beach, Va.) will race in the B Final for men’s K-1 LTA .
Megan Blunk (Lakebay, Wash.) has the mark of any elite athlete – always striving for better. After winning two Silver medals on Day 1 of her first ParaCanoe World Championships, she set her sights on bigger goals.
“It means that now I know what it feels like to be on the podium and I want to see the American flag in the middle up high [during the medal ceremony], instead of on the side,” Blunk said. “And it makes me just want to fight that much harder and win next time.”
Blunk, competing in the Trunk and Arms (TA) classification, placed 2nd in the women’s K-1 and V-1 races. She finished the K-1 final in 57.507, which was a half-second behind the first place finisher, Emma Wiggs of Great Britain.
Blunk improved upon her K-1 heat, in which she finished 3 full seconds behind Wiggs. Blunk then turned in a time of 1:10.838 in the V-1 final, which was 7.595 seconds behind the first place finisher, Jeanette Chippington of Great Britain.
“It feels really good because it shows me not to second guess myself and if you just go as hard as you can, then you can accomplish your goals,” Blunk said.
Also competing in her first World Championships, Ann Yoshida (Hillsboro, Ore.) won the Bronze medal in the women’s V-1 Arms (A) direct final with a time of 1:31.382, which was 25.754 seconds behind Chippington, the first place finisher.
“This is my first World Sprints and I won a medal, so that’s great,” Yoshida said. “But I still know that from this point on, it’s only going to get better. I’m only going to get more fit. It proves to me that anybody, a person with a disability or with no disability, they can get to this point, if they just work hard.”
Vadim Kin (Seattle, Wash.) placed 7th in the V-1 A final, while Bob Balk (Moravia, N.Y.) finished 8th in the V-1 TA final. Carol Rogers (Raleigh, N.C.) placed 9th in the K-1 A final. Nik Miller (Virginia Beach, Va.) and David Etier (Harwood, Texas) finished 8th in men’s K-1 Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) and TA semifinals, respectively.
The following athletes advanced to Thursday’s finals: Greg Crouse (Fullerton, Calif.) in men’s V-1 LTA; Kelly Allen (San Marcos, Texas) in women’s K-1 LTA; and Ryan Padilla (Gig Harbor, Wash.) in men’s K-1 A.
Anja Pierce (Pittsford, N.Y.), who won Silver at last year’s World Championships, will race in Thursday’s women’s V-1 LTA final.
Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO on the day’s achievements: “ParaCanoe set a great tone for the program and the Worlds today. As the Paralympic categories take shape, we are making outstanding progress towards the podium in Rio while gaining new confidence too.”
Ann Yoshida on representing the United States: “When being part of the team like the United States, it’s something bigger. I’m not even working individually, even though it’s an individual sport. It’s a team effort. The support from my teammates is critical in my success.”
Greg Crouse on advancing to the V-1 LTA final: “After my poor showing in the qualifier, I refocused myself and dedicated myself to doing a straighter line through the semi. And now I feel vindicated, I feel strong and mentally, emotionally, physically prepared for the Final.”
Kelly Allen on advancing to the K-1 LTA final: “There were a couple of things looking at the video, that I know I need to work on and focus on tomorrow. Honestly, you’re to the point now where nothing is going to change. I’ve worked all year for this and all that work is going to show tomorrow in the final. Whatever happens, happens. I know that I’m going to do my personal best tomorrow, I’m going to give it all.”
Megan Blunk (Lakebay, Wash.) had only been in a kayak twice before, and only recreationally. Then, in July 2008, she broke her back in a motorcycle accident.
At 18 years old, she was partially paralyzed from the waist down. All the sports she participated in before – soccer, track, basketball, softball, volleyball, wakeboarding, snowboarding – became impossible. Most doctors said she would never walk again.
“It was a pretty rough time because I didn’t know what I could do,” Blunk said. “I was determined to become happy again and make my life better, so I was working as hard as I could. One way or another it was going to get better. I didn’t give up. There was a lot of times I wanted to, I cried a lot. But things just kept working out because I kept pushing forward. It wasn’t necessarily, ‘I’m going to play sports again;’ it was ‘I’m going to have a good life and I’m not going to let this stop me.’”
Now 23, Blunk participates in a number of adaptive sports, most notably wheelchair basketball, where she plays point guard for the University of Illinois. She aspires to be a Paralympian – whether it be in basketball, sit volleyball or ParaCanoe.
Two summers ago, Blunk tried competitive paddling at the recommendation of a friend. She didn’t know at the time that ParaCanoe would be making it’s debut at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I just liked the fact that I was able to play another sport and add it to my list of things I can do,” Blunk said. “Because when you get injured and you think you can’t do anything, that really, really sucks to feel trapped. But the more I can do things, the happier I am. Getting into a kayak, just getting out of the wheelchair and being able to go faster and race – I loved racing before. I loved it.”
Blunk qualified for the 2013 ICF ParaCanoe World Championships based on her performance at the 2013 Lake Placid International in July. She finished the 200-meter race in 57.52 seconds.
Blunk captured her first individual National Championship ParaCanoe title in August, which helped the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team clinch the Club National Title. She won the women’s kayak (K-1) title after being disqualified in the outrigger (V-1) race for venturing into another paddler’s race lane.
“My coach told me just to try and not go as hard as I can,” Blunk said. “I want to go as hard as I can, but I have to stay calm and be in control. So I try to stay focused and then start going hard when I felt under control. I kept it straight by pulling harder on one side than the other, and I won so I feel a lot better.”
Blunk’s ParaCanoe classification is Trunk and Arms (TA), signifying the degree of mobility and control. As the lone women’s TA representative on Team USA, she often competes against and defeats the more mobile athletes in the Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) classification.
Blunk hopes to be in Rio for the 2016 Paralympics. Somewhere along the way, she’d like to try out sit skiing with an eye toward the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games.
Representing the U.S. in ParaCanoe will be…
K-1 Women: Kelly Allen (LTA), Megan Blunk (TA), Carol Rogers (A)
K-1 Men: Nik Miller (LTA), David Etier (TA), Ryan Padilla (A)
V-1 Women: Anja Pierce (LTA), Megan Blunk (TA), Ann Yoshida (A)
V-1 Men: Greg Crouse (LTA), Bob Balk (TA), Vadim Kin (A)
The ParaCanoe racing will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, after which the 2013 Sprint World Championship for able-bodied athletes will commence.
“We are looking forward to an exciting week of racing in Duisburg,” said USA Canoe/Kayak CEO Joe Jacobi. “Our goals vary from discipline to discipline and athlete to athlete but we see a great opportunity to see our program take a step forward over the next few weeks. I am grateful for the support of our coaches and staff on site as well as the leadership of our USA Canoe/Kayak Board Chair Bob Lally, who is attending his first Sprint and ParaCanoe World Championships.”
At the National Championships in Oklahoma City, Blunk won the women’s K1 title with a time of 59.279, which was +2.400 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Kelly Allen (San Marcos, Texas) finished first in V1 (outrigger) with a time of 1:03.233.
Nik Miller (Virginia Beach, Va.) of Washington Canoe Club won the K1 title with a time of 54.858, which was +1.918 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Greg Crouse (Fullerton, Calif.) finished first in V1 (outrigger) with a time of 1:02.289.
“It feels great to be a National Champion, I worked hard for this point,” Crouse said. “I made the National Team and I wanted to come here and get some pre-race in before Worlds. I feel strong, I feel confident, I’m going to have a good showing at Worlds.”
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation. It governs the Olympic disciplines of Flatwater Sprint, Whitewater Slalom, the Paralympic discipline of Paracanoe and sanctions Freestyle, Marathon, Outrigger, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak Polo, Dragon Boat and Canoe Sailing in the United States. 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.