Mike Ballard terms challenging Paracanoe World Cup a 'learning experience'

Abu Dhabi-based kayaker had to contend with bad weather in Poland that forced a number of races to be cancelled

Mike Ballard at the ICF Paracanoe World Cup in Poland. Photo: Dr Adam Coughlin
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Mike Ballard termed the weather-curtailed ICF Paracanoe World Cup a “phenomenal learning experience”.

The Abu Dhabi-based kayaker missed out competing in a B-final at the event in Poland, after strong winds led to a number of races being cancelled on Saturday.

A day earlier, the Michigan-born paddler had finished his KL Men’s 200m semi-final in 57.30 seconds.

That time was faster than that which he had registered in far more docile conditions in previous competitions.

For the second day in a row, his race was followed shortly after by a suspension in racing because of choppy water and strong winds.

Ballard himself saw a fellow competitor capsize in the lane next to his in his semi-final.

The United States representative said the event in Poznan had been a world away from what he was used to training on the water at Al Zeina in the UAE capital.

“Day 1 was a nightmare – flat-out danger, and they called it off after two people capsized,” Ballard said.

“Day 2 was still bad, but the wind was a little bit less. After being out there on the opening day, I had a really good idea of what the water would be doing.

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“I had a gameplan and I executed it. I was really happy to get down the course faster than at the USA trials and [in Paralympic qualifying] in Hungary.

“It is tough to tell the significance of the times because of the way the wind was blowing, and it felt like we were on a conveyor belt, but I was happy.”

How frequently the world’s leading paddlers will have to compete in such extreme conditions is unclear, but Ballard was grateful to have gone through it.

“It has been a phenomenal learning experience,” Ballard said.

“I was never in danger of coming home with a world championship to start with. We were here for the experience.

“Now we have expanded the realm of, not what we are comfortable paddling in, but what we are capable of paddling in.

“It has added a new element to what I know I am capable of. Times are irrelevant because of the conditions, but at the same time, we are trending in the right direction.”

Updated: May 28, 2022, 11:28 AM