Home Sports Nipper named Paralympic head coach 

Nipper named Paralympic head coach 

Para-canoe athlete Erica Scarff, second left, coach Francois Raymond, centre, para-canoe athlete Mathieu St- Pierre, and head coach Mark “Nipper” Granger, far-right, pose while at Montreal’s Olympic Bassin on June 24. Courtesy Onake Paddling Club

Mark “Nipper” Granger is no stranger to the Olympics. 

He coached Canada’s women’s canoe team at the games last year in Tokyo, which left with two gold medals. Now he’s taking on his next challenge: The 2024 Paralympics, set to take place in Paris from ​​August 28 to September 8.

“This will be my first Paralympic but my sixth Olympics all together,” said Granger, now the head coach for Canada’s three-athlete para-canoe team that includes Brianna Hennessy, Erica Scarff, and Mathieu St-Pierre.

He had actually been named coach of the 2024 para-canoe team about a year ago, he said, but had to keep the news under wraps until the Canadian Paralympic Committee was ready to announce the team roster at the Olympic Bassin in Montreal on June 24.

Granger, who is no stranger to Kahnawake (his partner is the Onake Paddling Club’s Sharon Rice), has been helping to develop local paddlers for many years, and was approached by Ian Mortimer, director of Canoe Kayak Canada, about coaching the 2024 team while at the games in Tokyo last year. He’s long been involved with the para-canoe program the organization designed specifically for participating in the Paralympics, he said.

His first Olympics was in 1992. “I think part of them picking me was the leadership skills I had, my experience with the Canoe Kayak Canada’s para-canoeing team, and my general experience as a high-performance coach,” he said.

Granger is now back in Quebec after spending all fall and winter training with the three athletes at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. These days, though, you can find him at the Olympic Bassin, just off of Montreal’s Saint Helen’s Island.

“They’re training full time. They train two, sometimes three times a day,” he said. “We’re trying to perfect a couple of parts of the race. We’re working really hard on it so that on race day everything happens on automatic pilot.”

For all three athletes this will be their second time participating in the Paralympic games.  

“Two of those athletes have also won medals at the world championships before,” he said about Hennessy and Scarff’s performance at the Paracanoe World Championships last year in Germany. “And one has won medals in the World Cup, so they’ve been on the podium before,” he added about St-Pierre, who took home gold at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Poland in 2022. 

Granger said the coaching staff at the Onake Paddling Club is more than happy to mentor the next generation of Kahnawa’kehró:non looking to get to the Olympics themselves one day.

“Maybe going to the Olympics seems far-fetched for some of the young kids, but it’s certainly attainable,” he said. “If the kids get involved at the club and they decide to take the high-performance avenue, we have a lot of coaches that can bring them to that level.”

miriam@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on July 5 in issue 33.27 of The Eastern Door.

Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.