There was no rest for Emma following her medal-winning performances at this summer’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo, as the Paracanoe World Championships took place in Copenhagen last weekend (16 – 19 September).

Competing in the VL2 class – an event in which she won gold just a couple of weeks before in Tokyo – Emma dominated the field to defend her World Championship title, winning by 7.55 seconds to beat Russian Canoe Federation’s Mariia Nikiforova in silver, and Brazil’s Debora Benevides in third.

The following day saw a second 2021 World Championships medal for Emma, this time taking silver in the KL2 class and just behind British Canoeing teammate Charlotte Henshaw, as the pair repeated the result from Tokyo.

Speaking to British Canoeing after winning gold in the VL2 race, Emma said: “We haven’t had our usual prep into it because of the Paralympic Games, so I was a bit nervous about whether we could deliver with not ideal preparation but it just feels incredible to have been able to deliver it for Matt my coach.

“And actually to have some of my family out here was really amazing because obviously, they couldn’t come to Tokyo, so I feel like it’s rounded off the year quite nicely.”

For more information on British Canoeing’s successes in Copenhagen, visit https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/news.

Emma rounded off a record-breaking Paralympic Games in Tokyo with a silver medal in the Women’s KL2 race to become the most decorated female paracanoeist at a Paralympic Games of all time, and the only female paddler to medal in both the Kayak and Va’a races at the same Games.

The KL2 Final was a gripping event, with Emma finishing with a time of 51.409, just 0.649 seconds behind Great Britain teammate Charlotte Henshaw, pushing her all the way to the line. All three podium finishers beat the previous Paralympic record time in what was a very quick race.

Emma and Charlotte’s medals helped ensure ParalympicsGB topped the Paracanoe medal table with seven medals overall, three of them gold.

Speaking after collecting her third Paralympic medal, fighting back tears, Emma said: “I’m exhausted, it’s been a crazy 24 hours!“

Reflecting on the race, she added: “I know Charlotte is a fantastic athlete and was going to be ahead so I just wanted to be as close as I could and be ahead of the rest of the world.”

“We wanted to show the world what we’ve got and I feel like we did that today. We put on the best performances we could and have come away with a gold and silver medal today.”

“I’m chuffed to bits for Charlotte and absolutely blown away to be next to her on the podium. She’s helped me become a better athlete and been a huge part of the squad these past five years. I’m just proud that as a ParalympicsGB team we’ve made disability impossible to ignore. I love this sport and will go on as long as the boats go faster.”

There’s no post-Paralympic rest period for Emma as she prepares for the 2021 Paracanoe World Championships in Copenhagen, set to take place from the 15th – 19th September, where she will again be competing in both the VL2 and KL2 events.

You can follow Emma’s progress on the British Canoeing website, which will have articles on each day of the Championships.

Emma Wiggs

Emma raced superbly to make history and become a double Paralympic Champion and the first-ever winner in the Paralympic Women’s VL2 event!

Emma’s time of 57.028 ensured a historic gold and beat the Paralympic Record she set in the heats by over a second. Emma finished over four seconds faster than Australian silver medallist Susan Seipel and was also joined on the podium by fellow Brit Jeanette Chippington. Emma and Jeanette’s medals were Paralympics GB’s 99th and 100th medals in Tokyo, with Great Britain second in the overall medal table, behind only China.

After the race, Emma was understandably thrilled and emotional, saying, “I’m unbelievably chuffed and happy to be here with this heavy medal. It feels incredibly emotional because of the struggle everyone has had globally, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful to the Japanese people and the organising committee for putting the games on.”

She continued: “It’s amazing to make history and to get on the podium with Jeannette again is more than we could have dreamt of, and I’ve just heard that Rob has got on the podium, which has made me cry again. I’m so proud of the team we have and there’s some unbelievable talent and more to come tomorrow, so stay tuned for that. 

“It’s been a lot of hard work and our team have been incredible. The staff are world-class in everything they do. We do the easy bit, paddling 200m. 

“My family have also been incredible and that’s why I find today so emotional as they’ve been part of this journey the whole time. I just wanted to make everyone at home proud. I actually imagined them on the bridge, and I paddled towards them.”

Whilst they weren’t able to be in Tokyo, Emma was cheered on by a group of family and friends in her hometown of Watford, who could probably be heard from Tokyo as Emma crossed the line.

Emma is competing again tomorrow in the KL2 Final at 3:04 am (UK Time) with coverage across Channel 4 and their streaming site All4.

Emma’s Paralympic Games got off to a great start as she put in a superb performance to win both of her heats in the VL2 and KL2 events, ensuring a safe passage through to both finals.

Emma made history in her first heat, winning the first-ever Paralympic Games VL2 race, setting a Paralympic best in the process. Emma’s time of 58.084 ensured she finished over six seconds faster than the rest of the field. Across both heats, Emma was the only athlete to go under the 60-second mark, setting her up well for Friday’s Final (3:02 am UK Time).

Emma came out just over an hour later at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway for her KL2 heat, which she also won to secure her place in Saturday’s Final (3:04 am UK Time). She will also be joined in the final by fellow Brit, Charlotte Henshaw, who also won her earlier heat. Emma’s time of 53.371 was almost two seconds faster than her closest competitor in a very quick heat. Emma’s time put her second fastest across both heats, just slightly behind Charlotte’s time of 52.794, to set up what’s sure to be an enthralling final.

You can watch Emma’s finals live on Channel 4 on Friday and Saturday morning.

ParalympicsGB para canoeist Emma Wiggs MBE nominated for Sunday Times Disability Sportswoman of the Year 2017

The competition schedule has been confirmed and there’s set to be a few (hopefully!) late nights or early mornings for viewers in the UK to watch Emma’s sprints live.

The heats for both the KL2 and VL2 events are on Thursday 2nd September. Emma’s VL2 heat is the second of two heats and is at 1:45 am, whilst she competes just over an hour later at 3:05 am in the KL2 in the second heat.

Friday 3rd September sees the conclusion of the VL2 event, with the semi-finals taking place at 1:44 am and 1:51 am, and the final later that morning at 3:02 am.

The KL2 event concludes the following day with the events scheduled for the same times, the semis at 1:44 am and 1:51 am, and the final at 3:02 am.

You can watch full coverage of the Paralympic Games including Emma’s events on Channel 4 and across the Channel 4 website, where there will be repeats throughout the day for those who miss the action overnight.

All times UK BST times.

 

Emma Wiggs

Emma is competing in two events in the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics later this summer. The KL2 event is a really challenging one, with her teammate Charlotte Henshaw being the current world champion.  However, Emma hopes a good delivery will keep her in the fight for the medals. These Games see the introduction of the Va’a events, and Emma will race in the VL2 and aim to make history as one of only a few athletes who will ‘double up’ and attempt to medal in two different events. Emma qualified for both events thanks to her outstanding success in the 2019 World Championships hosted in Hungary where she won gold in the VL2 and silver in the KL2. You can read more about Emma’s success in Hungary here.

Emma will be hoping to cap off what is set to be an outstanding summer of sport, with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place following last year’s postponement due to the pandemic. Emma’s heats for both events will be on 2nd September, with the VL2 final scheduled for the following day and the KL2 final to be held on the 4th of September.

In addition to training six days a week in preparation, Emma has also taken up a de-facto ambassadorial role ahead of Tokyo, appearing in an advert for the National Lottery alongside five fellow athletes including Jonnie Peacock and Tom Bosworth to promote this year’s Olympics and Paralympics. Emma has also been heavily involved with Vitality Health, leading a discussion with sports psychologist Dr Emma Ross to discuss the taboos that exist around women’s health, which you can watch on YouTube here.

Emma is thrilled to be competing in her third Paralympics, having represented Great Britain in the Sitting Team Volleyball event at the London 2012 Paralympics, before switching sports to Paracanoe and winning gold in Rio in the KL2 event.

“It will be a very different Games – we can’t get away from that. But I feel quite positive and excited about the fact it will be a moment to showcase some sporting performances that will bring some positivity and inspiration. I hope we can use it as an opportunity to celebrate our efforts to overcome the really significant challenges of the last year.” Read Emma’s full interview where she discussed her excitement at competing in two events and the support provided by the National Lottery here.

You can find out more about the athletes competing in Tokyo on the Paralympics GB website here.

Emma Wiggs MBE has been chosen as one of 35 elite female athletes for the ‘Unlocked’ initiative, set up by Women’s Sports Trust, with the aim of challenging the lack of diversity in sport, particularly at a senior level.

Emma joins other elite female athletes such as Nikita Parris and Hannah Cockcroft to seek to effect change in sports. The initiative was first launched in 2020 and proved to be a success with four athletes taking positions on sports body boards including Lizzie Simmonds, the new chair of the British Olympic Association’s Athletes Commission and Vanessa Wallace who has joined the charity Sporting Equals as a trustee.

Emma’s selection comes ahead of her competing in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, where she will be going for gold in two events – the KL-2 where she is reigning Paralympic champion and in the inaugural VL-2 race, having won the 2018 and 2019 World Championships in the classification. Emma is really excited to be acting as an agent of change, with improving diversity in sport a passion of hers.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have been selected for this incredible programme. I’m excited to be able to learn from the rest of the hugely talented group and see what positive impact we can have on women’s sport across the country and maybe even the world. There has never been a more exciting time to be involved with the changing landscape of women’s sport and I can’t wait to play my part in ensuring that change keeps on coming.”

You can read more about the Unlocked initiative on the Women’s Sports Trust website by clicking here.

As COVID struck the world and brought devastation to so many we were reminded that there are more important things than sport.  As the Olympic & Paralympic Games were rightly postponed, we as Paracanoe athletes were faced with the startline being only 162 days away suddenly slipping to 527 days. Together with most of the world, we too were ‘lockdown’ in our houses. 

The reality of training in a bungalow with little equipment and no lake hit home.  But there were more important things going on and our job quickly became about making the most of what we had and doing our best. Not a bad mindset for life!

We emptied the garage, filled it with bits and bobs of gym equipment and had a paddle ergo machine in our garden under a gazebo from the 1990s!  We cracked on doing what we could.  It was challenging, of course, but we made the most of it and actually found the 15 weeks quite surprisingly good!  We made good physical gains, we enjoyed the extra time at home, and I realised I can have a better sport:life balance and still be a world-class athlete at the top of their game!

Finally, in June, we were back on the water and the kayak, my more unstable boat had taken a real hit.  Disability is a real issue for stability, so I struggled for many weeks regaining the usual stable base I had worked so hard for.  We have taken huge learnings from our ‘COVID time’ and made changes that we will keep forever. Mostly about being kind to ourselves, looking for positives and having conversations at the right time to get more out of each and every one of us.

Emma Wiggs MBE produced another superb performance to become an eight-time World Champion by winning a second successive VL2 at the 2019 Paracanoe World Championships in Szeged, Hungary. Emma also secured a silver medal in the Women’s KL2, being pipped to gold by her Great Britain teammate Charlotte Henshaw. Emma’s achievements have ensured her place on the plane to Tokyo to defend her KL2 Paralympic gold and compete in the inaugural Paralympic VL2 race.

Emma recently recovered from a severe wrist injury that she wrote about in a heartfelt blog here but showed no signs of letting that stop her in her outstanding victory in the VL2 final, breaking the minute mark in her heat, before finishing over a second clear of Australian silver medallist Susan Seipel in the final with a World Record time of 56.10 seconds.

Emma heaped praise on her family and friends, whose support was invaluable throughout her recovery from injury.

“It just means so much for Matt, and my wife Gemma, and my family and friends because it’s just been a tough year and I’ve been pretty up and down. They’ve never not believed in me, so it just means the world to do it for them”. You can view Emma’s full interview with British Canoeing TV here.

The following day saw Emma finish a close second behind teammate and close friend Charlotte Henshaw to achieve a silver in the VL2 event. Emma was thrilled to finish the World Championships with a gold and silver medal, particularly in light of her injuries and was equally delighted for her teammate Charlotte who she shares a friendly rivalry with.

“Charlotte’s a phenomenal competitor so to just be alongside her on the podium is brilliant and she’s done incredibly well, but I’m over the moon to get a season’s best this year and we’ll go back get a strong winter in and see if I can be competitive”. Watch Emma’s full interview here.

You can read more about Emma and the GB team’s success at the 2019 Paracanoe World Championships by clicking here.

So in true style I had made a plan for post operation, of course I knew my wrist would be out of action, meaning transferring, wheeling my chair, driving etc would all be ‘different’ I just hadn’t planned for how different….

Waking up in recovery was bizarre, the last thing I remembered was the anaesthetist asking what my favourite drink was before saying ‘I’ve just given you a bottle, have a nice sleep’.  I was groggy and felt sick but managed to ask how it had gone and was chuffed to bits to hear ‘no wires’.  The surgeon had expected to have to use wires which would then have to be removed in another operation, so hearing that we had ‘got away’ with no wires sent my brain speeding into ‘well that’s amazing, must mean a shorter rehab and I’ll probably be back on the water in a couple of weeks…’, before I drifted off again into a woozy sleep.

We left hospital the next day with a huge bandage but positive about getting on the rehab road.  It dawned on me as we returned home that life was suddenly very different, I couldn’t get myself out the car, I couldn’t wheel my chair or transfer myself onto the sofa, the bed or a chair and worst of all I had to be lifted onto the toilet. Mortified I asked to be left alone and struggled for a good 10 minutes to think of a way to get my trousers down with one working limb, while keeping my balance on the loo….I couldn’t and probably the first time in nearly 20 years as I called for help I felt ‘disabled’.

I’ve been so lucky in my life since disability to have opportunities to prove myself, to show my disability doesn’t define me and that I can do so much more than people might think.  I’ve done things I never could have dreamt of and achieved things alongside those I love that might have seemed impossible. My journey has always been about proving what I can do and highlighting abilities not disabilities so to suddenly find myself unable to do the most basic tasks myself was brutal.

This isn’t supposed to be a poor me blog, far from it, but I need to set the scene for how life impacting this thankfully short period has been. It took me by surprise, I had assumed that I would just manage, that we would find a way for me to be independent, but we couldn’t, there just wasn’t a way to manage on my own.  Hopefully this blog can highlight how our own mindset can define not just how we act but how we feel and how we live. I needed to find a rehab mindset and apply the principles I had started to become good at in my everyday life as an elite athlete to my everyday life where I was feeling anything but an athlete…

Time went on and after 4 long weeks I was able to use my elbow to transfer myself onto the loo! It was like a milestone!  Normally only satisfied with taking chunks of seconds off or adding big weights on I was telling everyone that I could pull my own pants down and transfer onto the loo!  We had managed to keep the mobility scooter (thanks to @Bromakin) so I was back in the training environment with my teammates albeit just doing rehab I was back in the surroundings I loved and it was now I needed to find the right mindset to keep the fears, doubts and emotions at bay while encouraging my teammates as they made the progress I only wished I could and to keep the belief that I could and would be an athlete again.

I had good days and bad days and like I’ve learned in my sporting career over the last few years its about managing and minimising the bad and giving myself the best opportunities for more good. My staff team and I worked out our plan which didn’t look too bad at all. Back on the water by end of October and back working on strength by January.  I was chuffed! That was an outlook I could fully get behind. We worked out what we could work on while injured and identified a couple of things which would be ‘nice to haves’, things that a normal training year doesn’t allow for but things that could make a performance impact and off we went, working hard on the sessions and keeping my mind as positive as possible.

Our visit to the surgeon after 6 weeks changed things, he announced it would be another 10-12 weeks before we could load properly through the wrist or apply any unexpected forces. I was devastated, I’d even got my winter water kit out ready at home for my return to the water. It was not the news we had wanted but we always knew rehab journeys are unpredictable and we had to follow his advice to protect the slightly different repair he had done. The good news was he was happy with the surgery but it was just up to us to not ruin it now and set us back.

Back to the drawing board with new time scales and an adapted gym programme using forearm straps to load through what had become my tiny right arm and shoulder (I’ll never understand how muscle mass takes so long to gain and is so quick to lose!). I was still struggling with having to ask for so much help and feeling ‘disabled’ again all these years later but after chatting with my sports psychologist & a brilliant Olympic athlete, who had also been injured, I had a new found mindset, that I knew would power me through these next few months……we had been dealt a hand of cards, ones that we didn’t want, that weren’t ideal, but they were the cards we had.  WE just needed to now play them in the best way we could, even throwing in the odd trump or joker as we go! I’d better get practicing my left hand dealing #Onwards #CanoeCardShark