Australia’s best young canoe slalom talent will have to wait a little longer to compete against the best in the world, with organisers confirming next year’s ICF Junior and Under-23 Canoe Slalom World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand have been cancelled.
The week-long event was due to be held at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Manukau in April next year but the global Covid-19 pandemic has changed the entire sporting landscape.
Canoe Slalom New Zealand chairman Kerry Bloor explained that there is too much uncertainty over the next nine months to allow organisers to confidently plan.
“It’s obvious that we’ve got a long road in front of us and our international borders may not be open again for quite some time,” Bloor said in the Canoe Slalom NZL media statement.
“While New Zealand’s Covid-19 efforts mean competitors would be safer here than nearly anywhere else in the world, there are likely to still be considerable obstacles in actually getting here, taking into account our border access and increased travel costs. We don’t want to host anything other than a fully-fledged world championship, where entry is open and accessible to all, so to preserve the prestige of the event, this was the only option.”
Paddle Australia’s Pathway Coach Canoe Slalom Mike Druce said while it was disappointing to hear about the decision to cancel the event, it was also understandable that organisers were left with very little choice in the current global situation.
“It was disappointing to hear the news that the 2021 World Championships in New Zealand will be cancelled. We understand the reasons for the cancellation and it is good to have the decision made early as this allows us to plan for the team.”
“It is hard for the athletes, especially considering they have had their World Championships cancelled this year already. Also, we are all very disappointed for our New Zealand friends who were hosting the event. It is always good to have World competitions in our region and I know the New Zealand organisers had put in a great deal of work already and would’ve hosted a fantastic event.”
“I really hope that we can have a similar event in the region in the near future. In the meantime, we look towards what opportunities we have for training and racing coming up in these uncertain times. All our young paddlers are on the water training around the country and will be ready to take the opportunities for racing when the Covid-19 restrictions allow.”
This year’s under-23 and junior world championships in Slovenia has already been cancelled, along with a number of other international canoe and kayak events, with International Canoe Federation (ICF) President Jose Perurena reiterating that the health and safety of athletes and officials remains the number one priority.
“While obviously we are disappointed that the 2021 ICF under-23 and junior canoe slalom world championships in Auckland have had to be cancelled, we completely understand and sympathise with our friends at Canoe Slalom New Zealand,” Perurena said.
“This is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, and a lot of very hard decisions are having to be made. We are confident that when this terrible pandemic is behind us, we will once again get the opportunity to work with tremendous hosts like New Zealand to stage the best events possible.”
The postponement of this year’s Olympics in Tokyo has also compressed the 2021 calendar considerably, ruling postponement out. Organisers would have had to fit a rescheduled junior worlds between European Olympic qualifiers, the Olympics themselves and the senior world championships.
Despite the challenges, the International Canoe Federation remains hopeful there will be international canoe slalom, canoe sprint, paracanoe and wildwater events before the end of this year, following the latest ICF board meeting.
As announced in the latest ICF media release, organisers of canoe slalom world cups in Tacen, Slovenia, and Pau, France, and a canoe sprint and paracanoe event in Szeged, Hungary, along with an ICF wildwater world cup in La Seu, Spain, are continuing preparations for their events, scheduled for late September, October and November.
The ICF and organisers are working on detailed operational plans with Covid 19 measures to enable athletes, coaches and staff to feel safe during the competitions, but Covid-19 travel restrictions in Australia as well as around the world suggest that not all athletes may be able to attend.
The 2020 ICF ocean racing world championships in Portugal, the dragon boat world championships in India, and next year’s U23 and junior canoe slalom world championships in New Zealand, have all been cancelled by the ICF board given the current restrictions in place.
The ICF has also postponed its 2020 congress, which was scheduled for Manila in the Philippines in December. The ICF board voted to hold the next congress in March or April 2021.
The board was told the ICF remains in a strong position financially, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the forced cancellation of most of the 2020 calendar.
However, the situation is being closely monitored and several cost-saving initiatives have been implemented in case the Covid 19 situation is prolonged.
See full ICF media release here: https://www.canoeicf.com/news/icf-hopeful-some-events-will-be-held-year
The latest ICF 2020 calendar can be found here: https://www.canoeicf.com/coronavirus-COVID-19-updates-canoekayak-events