Athletes, Coaches Relish Rio 2016 Para-Canoe Opportunity

Para-canoe athletes and coaches talk to Around the Rings about their excitement for sport's Paralympic debut. Aaron Bauer reports from Rio

(ATR) Para-canoe athletes and coaches tell Around the Rings about their excitement for the sport's Paralympic debut in one year's time.

"We are really, really excited," Edina Muller, a para-canoe athlete from Germany, told ATR."It is a really great thing that we have our sport in the Paralympics now."

Para-canoe and kayak was added to the Paralympic program in 2010, finally making its debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The sprint canoe test event from Sept. 4-6 served as an integrated warm-up for both Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

"The event was organized very well and we’re really excited to compete at the Olympic venue; it has been good," Muller added.

Anja Pierce, a U.S. para-kayaker, said the test event was a "special treat," given how close it is to the Paralympics."Being here and seeing everything and getting more excited about it, and seeing what it will entail," Pierce toldATR.

"The set up is nicer than I kind of remember from the worlds. There is more space, the athlete lounge is great, it doesn’t feel so cramped."

For Deborah Page, one of the U.S. coaches, including para-canoe in the 2016 Paralympics will help grow the sport worldwide."I just hope that after next year it will grow exponentially," Page said.

"We’re getting more grant money, that helps. Sprint canoe and kayak is very technical so it is difficult to learn proper technique. If you don’t know how to paddle properly, you’re not going to compete on the world stage."

Both athletes told ATR that the organization of the test event had improved after clearing much of the overgrown weed from the water, which plagued the start of the competition.

"Right now it is much better than two days so I didn’t have any problems during the race," Muller said.

The International Paralympic Committee will have five more dedicated test events for Paralympic sports before the Games open on Sept. 7, 2016. In addition, many of the Olympic test events will be integrated with Paralympic athletes to fine-tune operations in the final year of preparations.

Written by Aaron Bauer in Rio de Janeiro

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