Double delight for Cork paddler Patrick O’Leary after strong performance at Paralympics

There was double delight for Cork paddler Patrick O’Leary today at the Tokyo Paralympics as he qualified for the semi-finals in both of his canoeing competitions, the KL3 200m and the VL3 200m, despite competing in torrential rain in Tokyo.

’Leary was sixth in the kayak final in Rio, when canoeing was first introduced to the Paralympics, and he had no trouble getting through to tomorrow’s KL3 semi-finals (2am Irish time) in his first race.

He finished fifth in a time of 43.502 in a heat won by the reigning KL3 champion Serhii Yemelianov in 40.766, who was followed across the line by the Rio silver and bronze medallists, Calo Ribeiro de Carvalho (Brazil) and GB’s Tom Keiry (GB).

Ninety minutes later the Galway-based chemistry lecturer was back on the water at the rain-swept Sea Forest Waterway for the inaugural heats in the Va’a discipline, a new event raced in a canoe with an outrigger and just one paddle.

O’Leary entered the VL3 heats as reigning European champion but was again in a stacked heat that included Australia’s Curtis McGrath (who is chasing double gold in Tokyo) and Britain’s world bronze medallist Stuart Wood. He qualified safely in fifth position in a time of 54:470 and the semi-finals are on Saturday (from 10:15 Irish time).

“They were both good races. I got a really good race in the Va’a, had a bit of a wobble in the middle so that’s something to work on but I got it back together again towards the end in a fairly stacked heat so I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.

“The KL3 was also stacked but in some ways I’d prefer to have those guys in the heat because that means I’ll avoid them in the semi when I get the draw later on.

“It’s great to get those first races done because generally speaking, I improve as regattas go on. Only the winners went straight through to the final so the stakes were relatively low and getting a hit-out at no cost to me was really important.

“I have a better idea of where I am in the kayak and I think I’ll be there or thereabouts in terms of making the A final. The problem with the Va’a is that there’s a lot of non-Europeans in them that we hadn’t seen yet this year and they were showing some style out there today. Just looking forward to the semi-finals now.”

Patrick Flanagan made a dream become a reality at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. The last of the Irish Para swim team to make their first appearance at Tokyo 2020, Flanagan competed in the S6 400m Freestyle Heats and swam a strong time of 5:40.48 as he came home in 7th place in his heat. The young Sligo man was immensely proud to finally become a Paralympian and spoke about what it would mean to his parents watching at home:

“My mum is probably like going crazy right now, I’m just so happy to be here and they were so good to me,” he said.

Barry McClements competed in his favoured 100m Butterfly event and finished slightly outside his personal best after a brave showing from the young Ards man.

McClements competed in a strong field and stayed in touch with the leaders throughout the first 50 metres. He then powered through the final 50m, eating into the lead with every stroke but, as the wall approached, he was left despairingly short of a third place finish that would likely have seen him qualify through to the final. However, after two personal bests and a finals appearance, McClements was very happy with how he has competed at the games overall;

“I always knew I would final here and I did final. I can’t beat myself up too much, but, looking forward to Paris, and yeah I have full confidence in myself that I will be on the podium there.”

Tomorrow’s schedule

02:12am, KL3 Canoe Semi Final, Pat O’Leary

01:30-11:42am, C4-5 Road Race Final, Ronan Grimes

01:35-02:47am, C1-3 Road Race Final, Richael Timothy

05:00-07:30am, B Tandem Road Race, Katie-George Dunlevy & Eve McCrystal

05:00-08:07am, B Tandem Road Race, Martin Gordon & Eamon Byrne

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