Paracanoeing’s bright future comes to the fore
Pietermaritzburg – The Paralympic Games have never acknowledged paracanoeing as a discipline, however, that will all change in 2016 at the Rio De Janeiro Games and South Africa have got two paracanoeists – Jono Wing, from Hilton in the Kzn Midlands, and Stuart Hogg – eyeing spots on the South African team that will travel to South America for the showpiece event.
Wing was a member of the South African team that went to the recent ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Russia in August and the youngster was unlucky to not advance past the first round of the K1 (LTA) Men’s 200m after being drawn in a stiff heat and was knocked out of the competition despite going faster than two others who qualified in weaker heats.
Wing’s coach Craig Mustard is excited by the arrival of a state of the art, brand new boat that the young star will be competing in from here on and feels that with hard work and this new equipment, the goal of competing at the Rio Paralympics is definitely not out of reach even though he is younger than the majority of the other competitors.
“As a 17-year old, the boat that Jono (Wing) was paddling at the World Champs was just too big for him!” Mustard said. “With him paddling against older guys he needs to have a boat that is suited to him and this new one is great because he lacks the weight the other paddlers carry.”
Stu Hogg had already shown great promise as a paddler when he represented South Africa as an able-bodied athlete before an unfortunate car crash that left him with one side of his body weaker than the other. Not willing to sit back and let life pass him by though, he got back into a boat with intentions of paddling for his country once more. A little way down the road Hogg’s goal was achieved when he was chosen for his country for a second time, this time as a para-canoeist, and he went on to compete at the Sprint World Championships. Unfortunately the determined athlete’s dream was short lived as he soon realised that his hampered upper-body strength meant he would struggle to compete with the more abled para-canoeists.
Through a state-of-the-art boat and a revised competition category that is more suited to his disability, Hogg’s dream of reaching the top is however back on track once more.
“The new boat is based on a traditional Tahitian outrigger,” Hogg said. “It’s almost like paracanoe’s equivalent of C1 paddling where you only paddle on the one side and then you’ve got an outrigger which helps with stability because a lot of the disabled athletes have problems with balance. It’s something different but it’s actually quite fun once you get into it!”
Boat manufacturers Nelo have come on board in helping Hogg out with his new craft and although the idea has been in the pipeline for a while, he has never had the chance to paddle in a boat like this previously due to its uniqueness.
For any further information go and have a look at the Canoeing South Africa website at www.canoesa.org.za.