Wheelchair racer Austin Smeenk breaks T34 800-m world record twice

Canadian Paralympic Committee

June 10, 2024

Canada sixth at Canada Cup wheelchair rugby tournament

Para Athletics athlete Austin Smeenk

NOTTWIL, SwitzerlandAustin Smeenk of Oakville, Ont. served notice he’ll be a force to deal with at this summer’s Paralympic Games as he lowered the world record twice this past weekend in the men’s T34 400-m wheelchair race.

Smeenk, a two-time Paralympian and enjoying the best moments of his career since Tokyo 2020, first lowered the world mark at the Nottwil Grand Prix to 48.38 seconds on Friday. Then on Sunday at the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial, he clocked 48.07.

The previous mark according to Paralympic.org was 48.61 set by Chaiwat Rattana of Thailand last summer.

At the Friday event, the 27-year-old Smeenk, born with spastic paraplegia, also took a second gold in the 800m and silver in the 100. On Sunday he added silver in the 100 and 800.

It was also a great weekend for Cody Fournie of Toronto who showed his silver medal at the world championships last month was no fluke. Fournie, a former wheelchair rugby national team member, collected gold in the T51 200m and silver in the 100m on Sunday and silver in the 200 on Friday.

Anthony Bouchard of Quebec City won silver and bronze in two T52 100m races and silver in the 400m Sunday. Veteran Josh Cassidy of Guelph, Ont. added silver in the T53-54 1500m on Sunday.

Canada Cup shows Paralympics will be exciting in wheelchair rugby

Canada finished sixth this past weekend at the Canada Cup wheelchair rugby tournament in Richmond, B.C., which was also the hors d’oeuvre for the Paralympic Games later this summer in Paris.

There’s no doubt with so many close matches at the tournament, no country has a lock on the medals heading into Paris.

The Canadians opened the tournament with a 48-44 victory over world champion Australia then proceeded to lose three of their next five games by two points or less.

“The fact that we could have this kind of competition to prepare us for Paris is such a blessing for us,’’ said Matt Debly of Windsor, Ont., to CPC. ‘’The gap between the top countries in the world is really close. All the teams that are here are doing the same thing as we are and working just as hard.

‘’We’ve got to learn from it and see what other teams are doing, what they like to do, how they like to play and how they are going to play against us.’’

The tournament was also comprised of world number-one USA, defending Canada Cup champions Japan, world championship holders Australia, reigning Paralympic gold medalists Great Britain, and current European champions France. Canada is ranked fifth internationally.

Japan repeated as champs going 6-0 in the tournament. Australia won the silver and Great Britain the bronze. France was fourth and the U.S. fifth.

‘’It’s the preparation for the Paralympics, there’s a lot we can learn,’’ said co-captain Patrice Dagenais of Embrun, Ont. after the loss to France. ‘’That’s what this tournament is for. To fine-tune our game, see what’s working and where we can improve.’’

Dagenais, expected to be nominated to his fourth Paralympics, says the tournament sets the tone for the rest of the summer.

“The pressure and speed of the game was very similar to what we’ll see in Paris,’’ he said. ‘’It’s going to be the same teams, the same players, so just getting used to the speed of the game and having to make quicker decisions is a good experience for the younger players.’’

Sabrina Duchesne wins bronze medal at Para swimming World Series

Paralympic Games-bound Sabrina Duchesne of St-Augustin, Que. won the bronze medal in the women’s 400m freestyle at the World Para Swimming Series in Limoges, France, on Sunday.

In the multiclass race, she clocked 5:26.54 for 863 points. Racers are ranked by how close their time is in relation to the world record in their category. Duchesne races in S7.

France’s Agathe Pauli (912 points, 4:52.53) won ahead of Spain’s Nuria Marques Soto (889 points, 4:55.56 seconds).

“It’s satisfying, because I’ve been on the road for three weeks,” said the 23-year-old to Sportcom. She is headed to her third Games in Paris.

“At the event in Berlin last week, the 200m and 400m went really well. Here in Limoges, the 50m and 100m didn’t go as well, so I wanted to end the trip on a good note.

‘’A 5:26 is positive for me”

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