19 August 2018

Wiggs ready to double up at Paracanoe World Championships

Paralympic champion Emma Wiggs believes the world class competition she faces in training every day will prove the difference when she lines up in the ICF Paracanoe World Championships.

The 38-year-old from Harrow knows exactly what she will be up against as she looks to add to her six world titles in Portugal, where she will double up by competing in both the KL2 and VL2.

Wiggs will go head-to-head with British team-mate and fellow Paralympic gold medallist Jeanette Chippington in the women’s VL2 in what is set to be one of the races of the championships.

She is also set to defend her KL2 title against GB team-mate Charlotte Henshaw and Wiggs admits training with her closest rivals ensures she is always sharp for major championships.

“It’s crazy to think it’s my sixth World Championships,” she said. “It’s been quite a long year as we started racing much earlier than normal, so it feels like it’s been a long time coming.

“Jeannette is the most decorated paracanoe athlete on the planet, men and women, so she is an incredible team-mate and an incredible person to be alongside.

“I team up with her in the VL2 and then I team up with Charlotte in the KL2 so it’s nice to have such a strong British representation in both of those boats.

“I think one of our greatest strengths is that even though we paddle our boats individually, and for intents and purposes we’re an individual sport, we actually are such a strong and successful team unit and that is our secret weapon.

Emma Wiggs with her Paralympic gold medal in 2016

“When you’re training with the best people in the world you’re going to be much more able to race like best people in the world when you get to that start line abroad.

“It’s an incredible advantage for us and one that we take full advantage of in terms of training six days a week together.

“Preparations have been really good but it’s been a long season and it’s sometimes tricky to keep that early form – if you found form at the beginning then you’ve got to maintain it.

“That’s part of being an athlete, though, to take the rough with the smooth and just keep sticking to the plan and chipping away at getting faster.”

Wiggs, who contracted a virus when she was 18 that resulted in paralysis in her legs, previously competed in sitting volleyball at London 2012 before switching to paracanoeing.

She has since gone on to dominate the KL2 class on an international stage, becoming the first ever paracanoeist to hold the world, European and Paralympic titles at the same time.


When you’re training with the best people in the world you’re going to be much more able to race like best people in the world when you get to that start line abroad.

Emma Wiggs

And this year has already been a memorable one for Wiggs, who has been nominated for the National Lottery Athlete of the Year Award on the back of her wonderful 2017 season.

“It was a real surprise to be nominated, but it’s an incredible line-up of athletes so to be one of them is just unbelievable and I’m prouder that we’ve got canoeing up there in the limelight,” she said.

“It is such an incredible sport but it is a relatively minority sport, one that doesn’t get a huge amount of coverage, so to be on the list is phenomenal, but to be on the list as a canoeist is brilliant.

“It’s such an exciting, dynamic sport to watch that I want to show more people what we do. I feel very lucky and privileged to do what I do.

“After London, it was such an amazing experience I knew I wanted to test myself and see if I could do this at a higher level and para-canoeing gave me that option.

Emma Wiggs in action

“Being able to experience a home Paralympics in London as a volleyball player and then to move sports and go to a second Games and come away with gold was incredible.

“It’s a testament to the programme we’ve got at canoeing and the work of the staff. It’s a real privilege to be a part of and the day that it isn’t a privilege will be the day to hang my paddle up, but I’m enjoying it far too much at the minute.”

But while Wiggs has already reached the pinnacle of her sport, she remains as driven as ever to keep getting faster with a view to defending her Paralympic title in Tokyo in two years’ time.

“The Paralympics has to be on the horizon as a target even though it is a long way away and I think what is really good with us is we’re taking it one year at a time,” she said.

“We know that we can make the boat faster every single year and at the minute we’re making huge gains and Tokyo is a really exciting prospect to be aiming towards.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m looking forward to being pushed all the way by my team-mates and I know as a fact that we’ll have the strongest, fastest para-canoeists in the world at Tokyo and I can’t wait.”

Sportsbeat 2018

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