Durban –South African para-paddler Graham Paull from Haenertsburg, Limpopo will remember this week for the rest of his life as he celebrated his 28th birthday making his international sprint debut at the second leg of the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Duisburg, Germany, starting down a road that he hopes will lead to the Rio Paralympic Games.
Having been classified into the men’s KL2 category for his 200m clash, Paull got his Rio 2016 qualification process underway on Thursday when he took to the water for his heat both nervous and excited before making a strong charge during his semi-final contest.
“Graham’s first race was not his best effort due to race nerves however with one race then under his belt, Graham was really strong in his semi-final!” explained Team SA manager Craig Mustard.
“Graham was in the top of the field at the 150m mark of his semi-final but unfortunately dropped off a little in the last 50m.”
Paull’s 57.705 second sixth place in his semi-final wasn’t enough to see him through to the final however Friday’s birthday boy will take invaluable experience away from Germany in his Olympic qualification quest.
“This was a really a good raw start for Graham and I believe that with a more structured and professional training program, he has the potential to qualify at for next year’s Olympics at the World Championships in August!” added Mustard confidently.
The spotlight now shifts to Team South Africa’s able-bodied paddlers who will look to build on the foundation they laid at the World Cup opening leg in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal when they take to Duisburg’s waters from Friday.
2012 London Olympic bronze medalist Bridgitte Hartley will hope a niggling shoulder injury won’t affect her in her women’s K1 500m and 200m outings while first year Under-23 competitor Louis Hattingh will again tackle the men’s K1 500m, 1000m and 5000m events.
Chrisjan Coetzee faces another busy weekend of racing as he looks to tackle the men’s K1 200m before he and Ant Collopy team up in the highly competitive men’s K2 200m tussle.