Canoe-Kayak Elite Amateur Sport Para Sport

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Double reward for Brianna Hennessy at world canoe sprint championships

By Martin Cleary

Ottawa River Canoe Club’s Brianna Hennessy had only one race Friday at the ICF canoe sprint world championships in Duisburg, Germany, but she achieved two major awards.

Hennessy, 38, placed an impressive second in the women’s VL2 200-metre paracanoe A final to earn the silver medal. And by placing in the top six, she earned a quota spot for Canada in that race for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

Great Britain’s Emma Wiggs won her 11th career world championship gold medal in the 200-metre sprint in 57.100 seconds, while Hennessy took second in 58.777 seconds. Third place went to Australia’s Susan Seipel in 59.232 seconds.

“Fantastic. Super exciting,” exclaimed L.A. Schmidt, the co-founder and Special Olympic coach at the Ottawa River Canoe Club, when asked about Hennessy’s medal-winning performance.

“It’s not often a small club has a Paralympian or Olympian in its mix. She has been knocking on the door. She’s a huge role model for us. It’s so great and so amazing for the kids to see that anything is possible.”

At the 2022 world championships in Dartmouth, N.S., Hennessy won silver in the VL2 race and bronze in the KL1 kayak final.

“Oh my goodness!” Hennessy wrote on Instagram. “I am so lucky for the INCREDIBLE team that I have behind me! My heart is filled to the top today!”

Sophia Jensen of Cascades Canoe Club was considered a medal prospect in the women’s C1 200-metre final, but she finished sixth in 46.494 seconds. Her result may give Canada its first quota berth in women’s canoe for the Paris Olympics.

Cuba’s Yarisleidis Cirilo Duboys captured gold in 44.799 seconds and was followed by Spain’s Antia Jacome in 45.418 seconds and Wenjun Lin of China in 45.623 seconds.

Sophia Jensen. Photo provided

In the morning semifinals, Jensen ignored a torrential downpour and used a personal-best time of 45.51 seconds for the 200-metre sprint to win her race and qualify for the final.

She defeated defending world champion Jacome, who was second at 45.755 seconds, and 2020 Olympic champion Nevin Harrison of the United States, who placed third in 46.466 seconds.

The Canadian women’s K4, which included Rideau Canoe Club’s Natalie Davison and Toshka Besharah-Hrebacka, won the B final over 500 metres in 1:33.632 and placed 10th overall. The national crew, which was completed by Courtney Stott and Riley Melanson, narrowly missed qualifying for the A final, when it was fourth in its semifinal and missed the third and final qualifying spot by 0.082 seconds.

Gabriel Ferron-Bouius of Rideau was eighth in the men’s KL3 200-metre B final in 44.167 seconds. In his semifinal, he was sixth in 43.39 seconds.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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