Teams South Africa’s only canoeist in Rio Graham Paull makes his Paralympic Games debut on Wednesday following two ICF Para-Canoeing World Championships appearances and an A Final in the men’s KL1 200m event at the 2015 World Champs means he has set his sights on a strong performance.
Paull ended fifth in the A Final at the World Championships in 2015 finishing under a second outside of the top three however despite ending so close to a medal he is not putting any podium pressure on himself heading into Wednesday’s heats.
‘I am not setting myself too higher expectations and I am just looking to race to my full potential throughout the Games,’ said Paull.
‘Paddling a personal best on the biggest stage possible is definitely my main goal and if that gets me into the top five then I’ll be incredibly happy with my effort but I’m just really excited to get out there and race!’
The sprint course in Rio came under scrutiny during the Olympic Games last month due to issues involving side winds and weed that interfered with paddler’s rudders and paddles however Paull is not letting those sentiments get the better of him as he looks forward to competition.
‘I am feeling strong and I am ready to race on the course although it is different to anything that I have competed on before. Being from the Highveld I’ve never raced in salt water which is different but the set-up for the course seems quite similar to my training base at Roodeplaat Dam so there are some similarities for me to fall back on.
‘There seems to be a constant cross wind on the course and I have trained for this so I hope that the wind does blow on competition day because I have planned a lot of training with that in mind. Other than that the course is great and I am really looking forward to getting out there and doing my thing!’ a focused Paull mentioned.
Staying out of harm’s way before an event is a priority for athletes as they want to be on top of their game going into their discipline and with his first step towards Paralympic glory coming up Paull feels he is in the right frame of mind mentally as well as physically ready for the challenge ahead. ‘I’ve been working incredibly hard back home and getting myself into the best possible shape has been important and I am feel strong and I am ready to go!
‘Now I am just excited to see how all the hard work pays off over the next few days!’ he said excitedly.
Picture of Paull courtesy of Balint Vekassy/Gameplan Media