Charlotte Henshaw wants to cook up a storm in Tokyo and says ParalympicsGB’s food-loving canoeists couldn’t be hungrier for glory, writes Will Jennings.
Mansfield’s Henshaw was officially selected for her fourth Paralympic Games on Monday after starring as a swimmer in Beijing, London and Rio.
Henshaw, 34, soared to 100m breaststroke SB6 silver and bronze in 2012 and 2016 but opted to swap sports after her third-place in Brazil.
ParalympicsGB’s eight canoeists were forced to think outside the box in lockdown and Henshaw, the reigning KL2 200m world champion, reckons the booming success of their Breakfast Club is intensifying their appetite for medals.
Henshaw, one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: “The squad push each other every day to be better, with a virtual arm around each other at the moment if it’s a bit of a tough day.
“As a squad, we really excel with that and hopefully we’ll reap the rewards in Tokyo when it matters.
Proud & honoured to be selected to represent @ParalympicsGB in Tokyo. This Paracanoe team is beyond ready to showcase to the world what we can do & it’s an honour to line up with them. I hope we do you all proud ❤️🇬🇧 #impossibletoignore https://t.co/1q8zMaU8z4
— Charlotte Henshaw (@CHenshawGB) June 7, 2021
“It’s been more of a challenge over the last 12 or 18 months and as a wider squad, we spend a lot of time together. In between training sessions, we have a Breakfast Club that we pride ourselves on – but with Covid restrictions and trying to keep training bubbles separate as much as we can, that’s been a bit more tricky.
“We tried to do what we can – we had a Breakfast Club outside last week because the weather lent itself to it, and I think that’s a real strength of ours in terms of spending more time together.
“We were also really good with doing paracanoeing quizzes online during lockdown, Laura [Sugar] and I trained together via Zoom from our gardens, so we’ve had to think outside the box a bit.
“Yes, we’re an individual sport, but we are absolutely stronger as a unit. We push each other every day and we’re surrounded by the world’s best every single time we get on the water or in the gym.
“There’s a reason that we’re top of the medal table every time we go to a Championships – and we want to continue that if we possibly can.”
Henshaw’s journey to a fourth Paralympic Games has been fuelled by UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme that allows her to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
She racked up two Paralympic, three World Championship and three European Championship medals in the pool before turning her attention to paracanoeing after clinching a breaststroke bronze in Rio.
Congratulations to the eight athletes selected for @ParalympicsGB in Para Canoe, with Jeanette Chippington, Emma Wiggs, Ian Marsden, Charlotte Henshaw, Laura Sugar, Rob Oliver, Dave Phillipson and Stuart Wood all heading to #Tokyo2020 🛶🇬🇧👏 pic.twitter.com/mXSNXFdSKp
— C4 Paralympics (@C4Paralympics) June 7, 2021
Versatile Henshaw has thrived off the transition, twice soaring to KL2 World Championship glory in 2018 and 2019 as well as VL3 nirvana in Hungary two years ago.
She’s buzzing for her first Games as a paddler but insists she isn’t tinkering with her preparation ahead of a tilt at a third Paralympic medal.
Henshaw, whose Games silver and bronzes are two of 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997, added: “The preparation is always the same – we just go in and train, do what we need to do, hopefully do it well and on the day make it counts.
“In Rio our swimming team was 32-strong and now I’m coming into a sport where there are eight of us, so it will be a different dynamic to what I’m used to.
“But our team prepares us very well for going into the competitions, so that’s probably the only real difference.
“We’re training to do a job on the day it counts – and hopefully we can do that.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo