Mansfield star Charlotte Henshaw aims for further World Championship glory

Charlotte Henshaw in action.
Charlotte Henshaw in action.

Reigning paracanoeing world champion Charlotte Henshaw has warned she has plenty more to give ahead of her third Sprint World Championships in Szeged this month.

The 32-year-old has enjoyed enormous success since transitioning to the sport from swimming after the 2016 Paralympic Games and will be defending her title in the KL2 classification in Hungary.

Mansfield-born Henshaw – who won two Paralympic medals in the pool – also heads to the competition looking to better last year’s bronze medal in the VL3 and explains she is driven by the desire for more success.

She said: “It’s been a bit of an up and down year for me personally so far – I picked up an injury going into the European Championships in May, but I managed to perform well and won gold in the KL2.

“That’s given me a lot of confidence moving into the last push before the World Championships – I’m really excited for the competition and I feel I’m in a good position now.

“It’s my third World Championships in paracanoeing which still seems a little bit bizarre after my swimming career, but it’s great to be in the mix.

“I’m still quite new to the sport and I’m constantly learning – I think if I got to the point where I thought I’d learnt everything it’d be hard to keep motivated, but I absolutely don’t feel that at the minute.

“I’ve still got a lot of improvements to make which is really exciting.”

While Henshaw harbours personal ambitions at the World Championships, she insists her focus remains on contributing to Project9 – the team goal to qualify boats for next summer’s Paralympics in all nine paracanoe events by recording a top-six finish.

Although the women’s VL3 event won’t be at the Tokyo Games, the Henshaw is vying to secure a quota spot in the KL2 alongside Paralympic champion Emma Wiggs, who she credits for much of her development.

“The biggest thing is that we’ve got a job to do,” she said. “We’ve got to get into the top six to qualify a boat for the Games because we want as many British boats there as possible.

“Project9 was a great vision introduced by British Canoeing – it reinforces the idea that although it’s an individual sport we wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for the rest of the squad pushing us every day.

“Emma’s been very generous with her time and her knowledge, which she didn’t have to be - she knew I was going to be racing against her.

“We’ve showcased that you can harness a competitive rivalry in a friendly way and that only helps to push everyone on.”

With only one spot up for grabs in each category in Tokyo next year, Henshaw acknowledges she still has work to do but admits she has one eye on competing at a fourth Paralympic Games.

She said: “I wouldn’t have taken up the challenge of a new sport if I didn’t have ambitions of doing it again.

“I have silver and bronze medals from my time in swimming, but I want to try and become a Paralympic champion.

“The first goal is the World Championships and there are a lot of milestones to overcome before next summer, but hopefully I can be on that plane and do as well as I can for the team.”

British Canoeing is the national governing body for paddlesports in the UK. Our purpose is to: Inspire people to pursue a passion for paddling; for health, enjoyment, friendship, challenge and achievement. Find out more on britishcanoeing.org.uk