While the COVID-19 pandemic is once again impacting so many of us, taking away the freedoms with which we normally live our lives, our Australian Olympic Team in Tokyo provided us with so much to rejoice over at a time when many of us really needed a boost. This was the Olympics that the world perhaps didn’t want but, in the end, it was the Olympics that the world really needed!
For the paddling community, we were all flying high when our very own paddling stars in Jess Fox (canoe slalom) and Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen (canoe sprint), won gold for Australia.
Jess etched her name in history when she claimed gold in the newly introduced women’s C1, adding to the bronze medal she claimed just two days earlier in the K1. With Dad Richard commentating, the nation held its breath for the 105.04 seconds it took Jess to paddle her way into the history books and achieve her childhood dream. Her Olympic performance sees her cemented as the world’s greatest ever canoe slalom paddler.
A week later it was Jean and Tom’s turn to make history, winning gold in the K2 1000m in their first outing as a team at an international competition. Making their Olympic debuts, the duo had not had the opportunity to compete together at an international event due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. They captured the hearts of the nation when they delivered an impressive gold medal winning performance.
The success of our paddling team at the Tokyo Olympic Games is unmatched. In the sprint competition, we had crews in all the kayak A finals and in all four finals in slalom. Swimming topped the Australian medal tally, with our friends at Rowing second and our Paddlers third.
But it wasn’t just about the medals. Our 17 Olympians represented Australia proudly and I have no doubt inspired so many people at home, young and old, to give paddling a go. In fact, through the support of the Australian Olympic Team’s #HaveAGo campaign, we attracted numerous new members to the sport.
Obviously, I would like to acknowledge high performance team at Paddle Australia that support our athletes and have so willing gone that extra mile, especially over a very challenging last two years. As important though, are all those people that have a contributed so much to paddling, day in, day out. They say, ‘it takes village to raise a child’. Well, it takes a whole community to raise an Olympian! Whether you are a coach, official, volunteer, administrator, or parent involved in our sport, you have made a difference through the contribution that you make.
Now it’s time for our Paralympians to shine. Once more you can catch the unrivalled coverage on Channel 7 and 7Plus. Curtis McGrath, AJ Jennings, Susan Seipel and Dylan Littlehales all return to the Paralympic Games eager to do us proud and bring home the medals. Action gets underway 2 September 2021.
Back home we know many people are finding things challenging and perhaps can’t enjoy our stunning waterways as much as they normally would. We ask our paddling community to stay safe, adhere to the COVID safety advice in your local area, check in on others and get vaccinated. We can’t wait until we can all get back out on the water!
For those members who are maybe doing it tough right now, the Paddle On Foundation is here to help lighten the load. Click here to find out more
Until next month, stay safe and enjoy the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Yours in paddling,
Paddle Australia CEO