Laura Sugar re-emphasised her Tokyo ambitions with a dominant performance at the sprint and paracanoe national selection event in Nottingham.
The 30-year-old put herself firmly in contention for a seat on the plane by winning all three rounds of the women’s KL3 200m races, which also saw her set a world best time of 46.83s in the second round.
While she must wait until June for the official GB team announcement Sugar is itching to build on the world silver and European bronze medals she claimed in 2019, ahead of the 18-month break in competition due to coronavirus.
But after getting her season up and running in emphatic style the former athletics star believes she can continue improving in the run-up to the Paralympic Games, and aid her bid for a podium place.
“Today went as well as I could have expected, so I’m really pleased,” she said. “I knew Hope [Gordon] was going to put up a really strong challenge, but I managed to produce a fast time in the first race and the second was completely unexpected.
“We’d done lots of practice races in training, but it’s never the same as the real thing. It’s just about getting used to that race environment again and that sicky feeling you get on the start line, to hopefully build up towards Tokyo.
“It would mean everything to me to qualify. There’s a great squad here and it’s a shame only one of us can go, but fingers crossed I make it to a second Paralympic Games and I can hunt down those medals.”
Before her debut season on the water two years ago Sugar featured at Rio 2016 on the track, claiming fifth-place finishes in both the women’s T44 200m and T44 100m events.
And she explained how sprinting has continued to influence her paddling exploits during the pandemic, helping her maintain a base level of fitness that has seen her become one of world canoeing’s strongest forces.
She added: “Although canoeing has taken over, I never really stopped athletics completely. I took a two-month break from it at one stage, but I found it affected how I was performing on the water.
“I’ve found that the muscles I train while I’m running actually helps me in the boat. During lockdown I was running a couple of times a week and it has been really supplementary.
“I did a couple of athletics races last summer just to get some racing groove, and it’s just a nice option to have that I still think is really useful.”
British Canoeing is the national governing body for paddlesport in the UK