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Chippington preparing for seventh Paralympics after coming to terms with her father's death

Para-canoeist Jeanette Chippington has said she’s feeling positive about the forthcoming Paralympics in Tokyo this summer, despite having had to come to terms with the death of her father, David, from COVID-19, and a training programme that’s also been blighted by the pandemic.

The Taplow athlete, who’s represented her country at six Paralympic Games, winning three gold, four silver and six bronze medals in swimming and para-canoe events, went through a ‘really tough’ time last April, around the time she turned 50, when her father died after contracting COVID.

She turned to training as well as her family to see her through the difficult period and she now feels she’s in a good place both physically and mentally to first gain selection for Team GB and then excel on the shores of Tokyo in late August.

The games will follow on from the Olympics and are due to get underway from August 24. Jeanette is confident they will go ahead as planned; however, she’s expecting a very different feel and atmosphere at her sixth Paralympics and this will also be the first one she's competed at where her parents haven’t been there to cheer her on from the sidelines.

“For me COVID is very personal and real,” she said.

“In April, my dad got COVID and passed away. That was a really tough time. But we were also together as a family and able to get through that difficult period.

“This will be the first games where my mum and dad haven’t been able to travel and watch me, so it (COVID) is quite close to home. You’ve got to be careful with it.

“To be honest the training always helped. It gave me that distraction and being outdoors as well always helps.

“When you’re sat at home that’s when you start thinking about things. It was a nice distraction for me, and it did help actually.

“Yes, there will be added motivation there. Even though my dad won’t be there, I know he’ll be looking down. He was so, so supportive, both of my parents were. From when I first started swimming, they would take me swimming at 5am before they went to work. I could never have done as well as I have without the support of my family.”

Jeanette, who is paralysed in both legs after contracting a virus which resulted in damage to her spinal cord, is now gearing up for Paralympic selection events in Nottingham next month and Hungary in May, although if she and her teammates have already secured their place on the plane to Japan, she might choose not to compete in the second competition with COVID still very much a threat to her chances of competing in Tokyo.

“Even though I’ve qualified the boat in my classification, I still have to be selected to compete in that boat,” she said. “So, we’ve got selection coming up in April in Nottingham on April 17.

“I’m feeling fairly confident, and it looks like we’re going to have a closed event rather than a regatta so it should be easier to focus because there won’t be other races going on. It will be our first national competition since September 2019.

“There are then second round qualifiers in Hungary in May, but going to a competition abroad, there is a risk. There would be hundreds of us queuing up for food at times. We haven’t decided what we’re going to do, I think we’re waiting on that event for the time being.

“We’ve been in such a bubble. At Dorney Lake (where she trains) there have been only a couple of us training there. Hopefully, I might have the jab before May, but there’s still a risk of getting COVID, and if you were to get it now, so close to Tokyo, the best-case scenario would see you out of training for about a month, so it’s not something you want to get at this moment in time.

“You also hear of people with long-COVID and it’s taking them months and months to recover, and they’re still not right. The restrictions will start to be lifted and life has to go on, but there’s still that part of you that wants to be careful.”

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