(Megan Blunk and Ann Yoshida in Germany with their 2013 World Championship medals)
With more than two years away from the Paralympic debut of ParaCanoe. Team USA is improving rapidly and has medals in mind for Rio 2016.
At the 2013 ParaCanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany, Team USA quadrupled its medal haul from the year before. Megan Blunk (Lakebay, Wash.) burst onto the scene, winning Silver medals in both women’s K1 and V1 TA (Trunk and Arms).
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 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.
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“Having athletes on the podium is our number one goal and it’s exciting for everyone,” said USA Canoe/Kayak Board President Bob Lally. “We did that at the Worlds by winning 4 medals. This will generate momentum across the board to reach higher and dig deeper, which includes not only our athletes but our coaches, staff, board and sponsors too.”
Anja Pierce (Pittsford, N.Y.), the lone U.S. medalist from the 2012 World Championships, claimed the Bronze in women’s V1 LTA (Legs, Trunk and Arms), with a time of 1:03.898 was +3.931 seconds behind the first place finisher – Andrea Green from Great Britain.
“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.”
Ann Yoshida (Hillsboro, Ore.) won Bronze in women’s V1 A (Arms) 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.”
At the 2013 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. She did so wearing the jersey of Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team, which would end up winning its second consecutive National Championship Team Title.
“I just liked the fact that I was able to play another sport and add it to my list of things I can do,” said Blunk, also a wheelchair basketball player at the University of Illinois. “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.”
At Nationals, Kelly Allen (San Marcos, Texas) finished first in V1 with a time of 1:03.233. Nik Miller of Washington Canoe Club (Virginia Beach, Va.) won the K1 title with a time of 54.858. Greg Crouse of San Diego Canoe and Kayak Club (Fullerton, Calif.) finished first in V1 with a time of 1:02.289.
At the Sprint Team Trials, David Etier (Harwood, Texas) won all three events he raced in. The ParaCanoe Team Trials were held during the Lake Placid International Regatta, where Carol Rogers (Raleigh, N.C.), Ryan Padilla (Gig Harbor, Wash.), Bob Balk (Moravia, N.Y.) and Vadim Kin (Seattle, Wash.) qualified for the World Championships.
“Going into the 2014 season, our program and schedule will continue to mature and iron out the organizational and logistical opportunities that go with the Paracanoe discipline,” Lally said. “Bottom line is we need to keep building on the foundation that has been set, recruit athletes and coaches to the program and move forward with a strong and sustainable program for 2016, 2020 and beyond.”
OFF THE WATER:
“Securing USOC High Performance funding in February for the 2013 USA Canoe/Kayak Paracanoe season completely changed the Paracanoe landscape and set a precedent for the out years,” Lally said. “Without question, our athletes were positively impacted by being able to participate in multiple training camps, receive funding to attend camps and competitions and provided incentive to push our athletes to the next performance level. Knowing there is support from the USOC and USA Canoe/Kayak motivates our athletes and Paracanoe leadership.”
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.