Tokyo Paralympics 2020: Laura Sugar's proud father tells of nerves as he watched her win para-canoe sprint gold
The father of Paralympics gold medallist Laura Sugar told how he was shouting at his TV at 3.30 in the morning at home in Berden as he watched his daughter storm to victory.
Laura, 30, won the women’s KL3 para-canoe sprint in Tokyo on Saturday (Sept 4) in a Games record of 49.582 seconds, lowering the mark of 50.347 sec she had set in her semi-final victory two days earlier.
Her parents Steve and Trish watched nervously from home in St Nicholas Field, Berden.
“I’ve played rugby to a high level but I’ve never been more nervous,” said Steve.
“The build-up that week was horrendous – nice, but horrendous. I was shouting at the television – I had more nerves than she did.”
Her victory sparked celebrations on Saturday evening at the Brewery Tap pub in Furneux Pelham, the village where Laura went to primary school.
Steve said he thought Laura – who also attended Newport Free Grammar School, now Joyce Frankland Academy – had a chance of gold due to her previous times, but he could not be sure as there had been no races for some time due to Covid.
He revealed that from a young age his daughter had always sought to overcome her disability – talipes, or club foot – and took switching sports from athletics, in which she competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, to canoeing in her stride.
At six Laura was riding horses, until she fell off and broke her leg, and then got into hockey at Newport, ending up playing for Wales after qualifying through her dad.
When she saw shot putter Dan Greaves at the 2012 London Paralympics, who she noticed had the same disability as her, she decided she wanted to compete in the games.
She was accepted for Team GB at Rio, reaching the final of the T44 100 and 200m. Her disability, which includes having no calf muscle in one leg, meant she faded in the later stages of races, but she claimed two fifth places.
“She’s always been a tough little cookie and we never stopped her doing anything,” said Steve.
He remembered how at three-and-a-half she fell over after he had taken her to the field near their home and suffered a bleeding knee. “She didn’t cry, she just said ‘tissue, Dad’,” said proud Steve.
When the Indie spoke to Steve on Monday he had yet to speak to Laura, but was due to travel to her home in the Midlands the next day.
For Laura, there’s little time to revel in her glory as, after a week’s quarantine, she is off to the 2021 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Copenhagen on September 16.
And Steve feels the future in the sport is there to be grabbed by Laura – who married Tom Collett two years ago – citing the long-running success of 43-year-old Dame Sarah Storey, GB's most decorated Paralympian with 28 medals, including 17 golds, in cycling and swimming at eight successive Paralympics from Barcelona in 1992 to Tokyo 2020.