THERE was double delight for Cork paddler Patrick O’Leary today who qualified for the semi-finals in both of his canoeing competitions, the KL3 200m and the VL3 200m, despite competing in biblical rain in Tokyo.
He was sixth in the kayak final in Rio when canoeing was first introduced to the Paralympics and he had no trouble getting through to tomorrow’s KL3 semi-finals (2am Irish time) in his first race.
He finished fifth in a time of 43.502 in a heat won by the reigning KL3 champion Serhii Yemelianov in 40.766 who was followed across the line by the Rio silver and bronze medallists, Calo Ribeiro de Carvalho (Brazil) and GB’s Tom Keiry (GB). Ninety minutes later the Galway-based chemistry lecturer was back on the water at the rain-swept Sea Forest Waterway for the inaugural heats in the Va’a discipline, a new event raced in a canoe with an outrigger and just one paddle.
O'Leary entered the VL3 heats as reigning European champion but was again in a stacked heat that included Australia’s Curtis McGrath (who is chasing double gold in Tokyo) and Britain’s world bronze medallist Stuart Wood. He qualified safely in fifth position in a time of 54:470 and the semi-finals are on Saturday (from 10:15 Irish time).
"They were both good races. I got a really good race in the Va’a, had a bit of a wobble in the middle so that’s something to work on but I got it back together again towards the end in a fairly stacked heat so I’m pretty happy with that.
"The KL3 was also stacked but in some ways, I’d prefer to have those guys in the heat because that means I’ll avoid them in the semi when I get the draw later on.
"It’s great to get those first races done because generally speaking, I improve as regattas go on. Only the winners went straight through to the final so the stakes were relatively low and getting a hit out at no cost to me was really important.
"The problem with the Va’a is that there’s a lot of non-Europeans in them that we hadn’t seen yet this year and they were showing some style out there today. Just looking forward to the semi-finals now."