Susan Seipel

Rio focus for Susan after successful sport change

BORN in Ipswich and schooled at Riverview, Bellbowrie resident Susan Seipel is looking towards Rio.

The 29-year-old former St Peter Claver College student qualified for the Rio Paralympics next year by claiming gold in the KL2 200m kayak at the Canoe Sprint World Championships in Italy in August.

She still has to ensure she qualifies for the Australian team at next year's nationals to confirm her Rio ticket.

But given she won six golds at the nationals this year it should not be a problem.

Seipel's success comes just three years after first sitting in a canoe.

Prior to that she had set several swimming national age records in her teens and represented Australia in Para Equestrian.

"I did equestrian for 18 years, competing at national and international level," Seipel said.

"I decided to take a break because it's quite an expensive sport. So I was looking for another sport to get into.

"I was not looking for Paralympics or anything."

Not at that point perhaps, but it was not long before educated eyes recognised Seipel's potential.

She went to a canoe come-and-try day, where a former Olympian spied her natural balance, strength and co-ordination.

"Definitely my sporting background helped," Seipel said.

"I didn't have any balance issues.

"I think mainly from horse riding I knew how to balance."

Seipel was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex, a rare disorder characterised by fusion of joints and absent muscle formation in the legs.

It was only last year she began competing in a canoe, attending the state championships.

From there it was off to nationals, where she won three races.

Now she is the world kayak champion, she is not letting success go to her head.

"I have to get reselected for the national team," she said of her Paralympic ambitions.

That means many more months of gut wrenching training.

"It's pretty intense," Seipel said when asked what racing over 300m in a kayak felt like. I'm kind of suited to short distances.

"But in training you have to do all distances to build for the end part of a race.

"The end part is pretty important in a 200m race because there can be only tenths of a second between racers."

Seipel may have left her horses for canoes, but has not lost her love of animals.

When not training or competing she can be found volunteering at the RSPCA centre at Wacol or at the wildlife hospital.

She also has four pets - a cat, a rat, a fish and an axolotl.

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