Nichols Finishes Seventh And Allen Eighth In Paracanoe Finals

By USA Canoe/Kayak | Sept. 15, 2016, 2:42 p.m. (ET)
Alana Nichols celebrates after competing in the women's KL2 final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

RIO DE JANEIRO - The improved weather conditions at the Lagoa Stadium set the stage for fast times and tight racing in the paracanoe finals at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. 

In the Women's KL2 Final, five-time Paralympian Alana Nichols took to the water with the goal of earning another summer Paralympic medal. Starting out of lane one, Nichols pressed hard throughout on her way to finishing 7th overall with a time of 1:00.315, 7.027 seconds behind winner Emma Wiggs (GBR). At the finish, Nichols reflected on her race; "This morning I found myself on the dock at 6:15, and it was glassy and the sun was rising over this little mountain, and it brought me to tears. It really did. I cried. It was just such a beautiful morning, and this whole experience has been incredible. So I knew this morning before it even happened that it was just an incredible experience. Going into the race I just wanted to have a super solid, consistent race. I’d had an injury before this; I’d slipped a disc at C6 – old ski racing injury – which put a lot of pressure on my nerve path in my right arm. So I had to take about four weeks off of training. I patiently watched all of my muscles atrophy, my endurance just kind of slip away, so that was a huge setback. I knew coming into Rio I wasn’t going to be as prepared as I wanted to be endurance-wise. So for me it was all about finishing strong. I made it to the final. Going out there, you couldn’t see me, I was in lane one, but I had a huge smile on my face. For me, it was all about being consistent, and that’s what I did, so I’m happy. Seventh in the world.” 

When asked about being a part of paracanoe's Paralympic debut, Nichols said it was truly amazing. “It was historic, absolutely. We made history here in Rio, and I’ve seen a lot of people grow and make exceptional changes in their bodies and minds and spirits. One of my teammates, Kelly Allen, really impressed me with all the hard work and dedication she put towards this. And that’s really what it’s about, is growing with each other in singulars and as a team. So for me to be able to experience that with her was pretty incredible. My teammate Ann Yoshida got a last-minute spot in the Games due to Russia getting pulled, and seeing her come and put her game face on was pretty powerful.”

Also making a push for the podium was Kelly Allen in the Women's KL3 Final. As she approached the start, Allen thought back to some advice from her father; "The very last thing I said was something that my dad tells me before every single race, which is ‘paddle fast, stay dry.’ So that’s the main plan, just get the boat going and be as smart as possible. Of course I said a prayer to the lord that he would be with me, and of course we’ve got the big guy [Christ the Redeemer] over there looking over our shoulders so I knew I was in good hands. Yeah, I was just thinking that this is such an iconic moment for our sport and I’m just so happy to be a part of it.”

Allen made a hard charge in her first-ever paracanoe final to finish 8th overall with a time of 54.72 seconds, 2.619 out of the medals and 3.372 seconds behind gold medalist Anne Dickins (GBR). “Well, I just competed in the first-ever paracanoe final, so I’m completely stoked! That was basically my main goal getting here, so I couldn’t be happier with the results, basically. Because I know that no matter what my time was, I still made history somehow, so I feel very overwhelmed with joy. That was an amazing experience and something that, for five years I’ve been working towards that moment.”

Congratulations to the U.S. Paralympic Paracanoe Team on their performance in Rio!