Mike Ballard relieved to survive 'white-knuckle' heat at Paracanoe World Cup

Abu Dhabi-based kayaker advances to semi-final in Poland before conditions forced a suspension when a competitor capsized

The choppy water at the KL2 Men's 200m heat at the ICF Paracanoe World Cup in Poznan meant the front third of Mike Ballard's kayak was submerged for the majority of the race. Photo: Courtesy Dr Adam Coughlin
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Mike Ballard deemed it “white-knuckle paddling” after surviving treacherous conditions at the start of the ICF Paracanoe World Cup in Poland.

Strong winds and choppy water made for a tough heat for the Abu Dhabi-based kayaker, as he competed in the KL2 Men’s 200m at the event in Poznan.

So difficult was it that the start of the race itself had to be delayed as Ballard struggling to position the nose of his boat into the starting bucket because of the swell.

“It was the danger zone given my injury because I don’t have so much hip control,” said Ballard, who is paralysed from the waist down because of a spinal cord injury.

“The wind and the water were pushing so hard I was having trouble getting my boat into the starting gate. It was very difficult conditions.

“The only objective was to get down the course. As long as you make the finish line, with the way the brackets worked, you make the semi-final.

“I made it through and was happy to be down the course.”

Racing was suspended for two hours shortly after Ballard’s race, after another para-athlete capsized due to the weather.

His semi-final was postponed until early Friday morning. Given the weather, Ballard said his sole focus was finishing safely, rather than on his finishing position or what time he clocked.

“It was white-knuckle paddling,” Ballard, who is representing the United States at the World Cup, said.

“I needed to get down the course to get to the semi-final. The top three go straight to the final, so that is what you are racing for.

“Given the conditions, the objective was not to race. The objective was to stay in the boat.

“The water was rushing forward, making it difficult to even get into the starting gate. It was an experience I was not prepared for.

“Still, we accomplished what we needed to: to get down the course and get into the semi-final.”

Ballard will race for a place in the final on Friday morning. The weather forecast suggests there will be similarly strong winds.

Updated: May 26, 2022, 4:44 PM