Russia's Larisa Volik defended her VL3 Paracanoe world title ©ICF

Russia's Larisa Volik and Germany's Peter Happ earned gold medals on the opening day of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Montemor.

Volik was hoping to defend the VL3 Paracanoe title she earned last year in Racice, but was forced to battle in Portugal.

The Russian canoeist was challenged heavily in the non-Paralympic event by Ukraine’s Nataliia Lahutenko and Britain’s Charlotte Henshaw.

Henshaw would lead for much of the race, but she was pipped in the closing stages.

Defending champion Volik, who is also the current European champion, came through to win gold in a time of 1min 6.262sec.

Lahutenko ended as the runner-up at just 0.135 seconds off the winner’s pace, while Henshaw was denied in the tight finish as she finished third in 1:06.407.

Happ would emerge as the winner of the men’s VL1 competition on his debut appearance at the World Championships.

The German earned victory in a time of 1:18.764, as he ended some way clear of his only rival Robinson Mendez.

Chile's Mendez finished in a time of 1:34.300.

"This is my first year with the national team, so to take first place in the VL1, I'm super happy, and just glad to be here," Happ said.

"I was not nervous before the race, but when I was at the start, yes I could feel my stomach.

"I like it, this is the best sport I can do with my national team, it's the travelling around, competing with the other guys, it's a lot of fun."

A further three Paracanoe finals are set to take place tomorrow.

The Championships will continue until Sunday (August 26).