Tokyo bound - Bunbury paralympian Stuart Wood

Stuart Wood insisted the postponement of the Paralympics has played into his hands, after taking a step closer to Tokyo with a dominant performance at the sprint and paracanoe national selection event, writes Peter White.

The Bunbury paddler put himself firmly in contention for a seat on the plane by winning all three of the men’s VL3 200m races in Nottingham.

He did everything he could to impress the selectors ahead of June’s team announcement.

Having joined British Canoeing’s world class programme in 2019, Wood wasted no time in making his mark with world bronze and European gold, ahead of the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But with more time to focus on the finer details alongside girlfriend and fellow para canoeist Lindsay Thorpe due to the absence of competition, the former University of Bath student believes he is in the form of his life ahead of a crucial few months.

“I definitely think there have been elements of the lockdown that have benefited me,” he said.

“My weakness has always been my endurance, and I suddenly found myself in a position where there wasn’t anything else I could work on.

“It really helped having my girlfriend with me, because it meant we could push each other throughout the whole thing and get the best out of ourselves.

“Having a year without regattas gave us a massive run into this season, and I’m feeling really good at the moment.

“I probably got better as the three rounds went on today, as the nerves settled, but overall I’m really pleased with my performance.”

While Wood must endure the agonising wait to discover whether he has done enough to secure a Paralympic debut he admitted thoughts of representing Great Britain on sport’s biggest stage have entered his mind.

And though his medal-winning exploits of a couple of years ago might suggest he’ll be eyeing the podium in Japan, he believes his chances won’t become clear until he gets to mix it with the world’s best once again.

He added: “The Paralympics is what we all train for, and especially with what’s gone on in the world over the last 12 months I’m sure it’s going to be particularly special.

“It’s all about carrying this form forwards, now.

“The one thing about not having competed internationally for so long is that we don’t know where the rest of the world is at in terms of their progress.

“We’ll find that out soon enough, but I do think our high level of national competition should stand us in good stead because we’ve all been able to consistently push each other.”

British Canoeing is the national governing body for paddlesport in the UK

(Image courtesy of A Edmonds)

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