With some vital world-class experience now under his belt, Red Beach resident Corbin Hart is aiming to make a real mark the next time the Paralympics roll around in Paris in 2024.
Hart went into the Tokyo Paralympics in August with less than 18 months of para-canoeing behind him (HM August 16) and had little idea of what to expect.
The event was therefore a real eye-opener for the 27-year-old, who lost most of his right leg in a workplace injury at the end of 2019.
“It was my first time competing at that level so I had a few ‘whoopsies’ and have picked up lots of learnings,” he says. “But just being there was more than enough for me, given it hadn’t been much more than a year since I first got in a kayak.”
Hart competed in four races in Tokyo – the heat, semi-final and ‘B’ final – before eventually finishing with a ranking of 13th.
“I had no expectation of what it was going to be like, so I can’t really compare it to anything I’ve done,” he says. “I was also really nervous for all my other events, so they were actually just as hard. The Paralympics were tough, of course, but I still remember the first event I ever did and being worried about falling out of the kayak and all that sort of stuff.”
The pandemic meant friends and family were not able to travel to Tokyo to cheer him on and having to isolate after returning.
After returning to his Whangaparāoa home he enjoyed a few weeks break, but is now keen to get back on the water.
Upcoming national events may be affected by alert level restrictions but Corbin hopes to compete at a meet in December and the international stage beckons again next year, in the form of the World Cup in the Netherlands in May and the World Championships in Canada in August.
He says his dream of competing at the highest level is made possible by the support of ACC, who provided him with prosthetic legs, financial compensation, social rehabilitation, occupational therapy and counselling.
He will receive further support in his bid to get back into fulltime employment, which he will look to juggle with para-canoeing commitments.
“I need lots of opportunities to perform under pressure,” he says. “So that’s what I’m going to be working on over the next three years – getting to these international regattas, exposing myself to tough situations and getting used to performing at that level.”