Few paddling disciplines have been more impacted by the events of the past 18 months than Canoe Slalom.
An activity that already can only take place at a handful of venues around the country, and that demands a range of conditions to support athlete development, Canoe Slalom has been hard hit by lockdowns and state border closures. Access to the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, challenging due to the cost even when things are going well, has been further restricted because of interstate travel restrictions and more recently poor water quality in the Penrith Lakes system.
These factors have hit young athletes and their families particularly hard. In some states, such as Victoria, more frequent lockdowns have meant that athletes have been unable to travel to whitewater to train for much of the time. Planned national training camps and competitions have had to be first postponed and then cancelled, with only local events taking place.
Access to international events has been impossible. Recent announcements suggest that this situation will not change in the foreseeable future.
The difficulties of the last eighteen months have also prompted reflection on some of the challenges that have confronted Canoe Slalom since before the arrival of the pandemic. While COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the way our sport operates, there is an acknowledgement that this current initiative is about more than simply a COVID response.
Solutions need to be found to support those already involved and then to secure growth in participation. Finding the best way forward will require us all to contribute. New initiatives and policies are being sought to ensure participation, pathway and high performance outcomes are optimised.
In considering the response to this situation, Paddle Australia will be seeking the input of those involved in the Canoe Slalom community. The Board of Paddle Australia has asked our Canoe Slalom Technical Committee for their initial recommendations. These will then be considered by the PA management and then the Board, with a draft ‘Plan for Consultation’ developed as a starting point for broader discussion.
The ‘Plan for Consultation’ will not only set out to address some of the short-term challenges that we need to deal with but also the longer-term barriers that must be addressed for Canoe Slalom to flourish.
From late June, we will be inviting athletes, staff, parents, coaches, volunteers, our State Paddle Associations, their Slalom Technical Committees and others to provide input, both in writing and through scheduled online discussions. The window for feedback will be short as we are keen to finalise the Plan as soon as possible.
The feedback will inform the final Plan that will be considered by the Paddle Australia Board on 14th August.
Whilst this process is underway, Paddle Australia will progress the planning of a development camp, scheduled for September. The details of this camp may be refined once the longer-term Plan is finalised.
We look forward to the positive input of the Canoe Slalom Community at this critical time.