Portugal 2018: Helene Ripa hungry for more

Swedish paddler enjoys taste of first Worlds gold

female Para canoeist Helene Ripa paddles in her boat Helene Ripa beat defending champion Amanda Reynolds to the women's KL3 title at Portugal 2018 © • ICF

Sweden’s newly crowned Para canoe world champion Helene Ripa would love to add her name to the list of athletes to win a medal at both a Summer and Winter Paralympics.

She already has a gold medal from Sochi 2014 in the 15km cross-country skiing race. After winning the women’s KL3 title at August’s World Championships in Montemar-O-Vehlo, Portugal, she could now be a strong medal contender at Tokyo 2020.

"Of course that would mean a lot,” Ripa said. “It is the ultimate proof that you have what it takes. To crown my sports career with a Summer Paralympics medal in addition to the medals I already have on the winter side and in the canoe would be amazing! I look forward to making this trip and to see how far I can go. Hopefully all the way to the top."

Her plan to reach Tokyo is simple: "To get stronger, faster and better in any way possible. I think I have an advantage because I still have a lot to improve and I am determined to do it. "

Focus on the prize

The 47-year-old claimed her first world title in Para canoe after beating Australia's Amanda Reynolds and Romania's Mihaela Lulea, respectively. The race was decided by just 0.21 seconds.

"I don’t remember much from the race itself. It was more a feeling that I really gave it all!” Ripa said. “The first paddle after the start was not my best, but after that it was all about focus. Focus on the finish line, straight ahead and nothing else."

"I got a bit tired at the end and did not paddle as well as I wished,” Ripa admitted.” I had no idea who had won when I passed the finish line. I saw that Amanda was right with me, but I could not possibly decide which of us was first.

"I did not even think that I had certainly won a silver, all that was in mind was - how close was it? Was it gold?"

When victory was confirmed, she was overcome with emotion.

"Then the tears came. Big tears together with the euphoric feeling of joy. I couldn't really understand that I had done it, beaten some of my toughest competitors and won the World Championship gold. Crazy!"

Winning brings confidence

The win complemented her gold from June’s European Championships.

"It gave me confidence,” Ripa said about winning European gold. “Not just the win itself, but the way I did it. I was the first athlete out of the starting gates and I kept, and increased, that distance all the way to the finish line. It was then I realised that all the hard training and focus that I had put in over the last years really had made a difference. I had my goal for this World Championships and me winning exceeds them all."

Since Para canoe sprints are over 200 metres and involve extremely close finishes, it is important for Ripa to excel in all stages of the race if she wants to get that medal in Tokyo.

“It is a short race and if you don’t nail the start it will be hard to win because there is just not enough time,” Ripa explained. “And if you don’t have that top speed, it does not matter how well you nailed the start or how strong your middle phase is. Everything is connected and are important parts to work on and learn to master."