This week Paddle Australia is celebrating the incredible volunteers that give up their time to help keep paddle sports ticking. Without volunteers who work tirelessly within our sporting community, paddle in Australia wouldn’t be able to thrive.
One volunteers who has dedicated her time to help grow paddling in New South Wales and the Paralympic disciplines is Laura White.
Laura is a technical official, and as a reward for her hard work over the years has been appointed to officiate at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
But Laura’s involvement in paddling did not start on the side of the water.
“I was a pretty young kid when I first started, and I realised pretty quickly that I was never going to make it as an athlete,” Laura said.
“Then I realised there was a pathway for officials, and I just decided to pursue that. I’m absolutely stoked that I’ve been appointed for Tokyo – it’s a dream come true for me.
“There’s so few of us that get to make it, and it’s appointed by the International Canoe Federation. It’s a real honour and I’m very humbled to be representing Australia and Oceania in Tokyo,” she said.
In terms of getting ready for an event, Laura is meticulous in ensuring that she is well prepared for any circumstance.
“It depends what role you’ve got, we’re very lucky that all the equipment is provided for us when we get there so we know that’s all ready to go,” Laura said.
“But I always re-read the rules against before I go away to a regatta, to make sure I’m not remembering rules from years past.
“The aim for all the officials is for every single athlete to start every race, and to make sure they’ve all got an equal and fair opportunity from start to finish,” she said.
As a female, Laura is pleased to see the ICF making moves to encourage female involvement in the officiating of the sport.
“The ICF have really been encouraging female participation in officiating and if you look at the list of officials for the Paralympics it’s predominantly females, and young females,” Laura said.
“It’s very exciting to see that our sport is providing these opportunities for females both in and out of the water.
“We’re very fortunate that we are a gender equal sport, especially now that we’ve got female canoe categories at the Olympics,” she said.
With the Tokyo Paralympics in just over 90 days, Laura already has some big goals for herself for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.
“You never know what events you’re going to get appointed to, on a year by year basis,” Laura said.
“But I’ve been doing Junior World Championships for the last couple of years, and really hoping to step up into the Senior World Championships.
“If I can get a few of those under my belt, it means I’ve got more change of getting to an Olympics as well.
“So that will be the focus for me over the next few years, and Paris or Los Angeles here we come!” she said.
Paddle Australia would like to thank Laura, and all of the volunteers who dedicate their time to the paddling community.