Team USA Reflects on 2013 and Prepares for the Future of Paralympics

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Megan Blunk of Washington state was active in soccer, track, basketball, softball and volleyball. She enjoyed wakeboarding and took a kayak out once or twice during her high school years. Then at 18 years old, she broke her back in a motorcycle accident and was partially paralyzed from the waist down. Now, five years later, Megan is a ParaCanoe World Championship medal holder and is aspiring for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I just liked the fact that I was able to play another sport and add it to my list of things I can do,” said Blunk, also a wheelchair basketball player at the University of Illinois. “Because when you get injured and you think you can’t do anything, that really, really sucks to feel trapped. But the more I can do things, the happier I am. Getting into a kayak, just getting out of the wheelchair and being able to go faster and race – I loved racing before. I loved it.”

At the 2013 ParaCanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany, Megan and her team quadrupled their medal haul from the year before. “Having athletes on the podium is our number one goal and it’s exciting for everyone,” said USA Canoe/Kayak Board President Bob Lally. “We did that at the Worlds by winning 4 medals. This will generate momentum across the board to reach higher and dig deeper, which includes not only our athletes but our coaches, staff, board and sponsors too.”

The ParaCanoe program, along with the IPC’s Canoe For All Committee, now has to focus on building the program, recruiting athletes and coaches, and creating a sustainable program for the 2016 Paralympics and beyond.

“Securing USOC High Performance funding in February for the 2013 USA Canoe/Kayak Paracanoe season completely changed the Paracanoe landscape and set a precedent for the out years,” Lally said. “Without question, our athletes were positively impacted by being able to participate in multiple training camps, receive funding to attend camps and competitions and provided incentive to push our athletes to the next performance level. Knowing there is support from the USOC and USA Canoe/Kayak motivates our athletes and Paracanoe leadership.”

Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO, on the Worlds Championships Achievements, said, “ParaCanoe set a great tone for the program and the Worlds today. As the Paralympic categories take shape, we are making outstanding progress towards the podium in Rio while gaining new confidence too.”

To learn more about the USA Canoe/Kayak teams visit www.teamusa.org/USA-Canoe-Kayak.