CEO Blog – November 2021

November has been a month of celebration for Paddle Australia, with our community coming together virtually to celebrate the 2021 Paddle Australia Annual Awards. Although COVID has once again prevented us meeting in person, we have still been able to recognise the great work and achievements of our paddling community. 

The Annual Awards as always, has been a chance for us to reflect on the last 12 months, recognise our athletes and coaches, and honour the service of our volunteers, officials and educators who continue to give so much to our sport.

As I write, we have already presented 11 awards and in the coming days we will present the Junior Paddler of the Year, Paddler of the Year and Paracanoeist of the Year, rounding out the presentations. If you have missed any of the awards, you can catch up on Facebook and the PA website. I am sure everyone would want to join me in congratulating all our finalists and winners.

On Saturday 6 November we held the Paddle Australia Annual General Meeting. The AGM was an opportunity for the Board, as well as the States, to come together virtually to celebrate the year that was and look ahead to 2022. 

Whilst we celebrate the achievements of our own, paddling is being recognised by the broader sporting community. The NSW Institute of Sport Award for Program of the Year has been secured by our Canoe Slalom program, whilst Jess Fox was the joint winner of the Female Athlete of the Year alongside wheelchair Paralympian Madison De Rozario. Myriam Fox was a finalist for the Coach of the Year, with sprint canoeist Jo Brigden-Jones recognised for her contribution as she retires from competitive paddling. On the same night at the Queensland Sports Awards, Curtis McGrath, winner of two gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games was recognised as the 2021 Queensland Sport Athlete with a Disability. Congratulations also must go to our canoeing program in Western Australia which was named the 2021 Program of the Year at the Western Australia Institute of Sport Awards.

This month was also pleased to announce the newest additions to our leadership team with the appointments of Kim Crane as the National Performance Director and David Foureur as the new General Manager Performance – Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe. Following a highly successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, along with the announcement of Brisbane as the host city of the 2032 Games, PA is excited to welcome Kim and David to their new roles in the high performance team as the sport embarks on a new, ambitious and exciting high performance and pathway strategy.

Very soon we will be announcing the appointment of two coaches that will round out the sprint coaching team. I look forward to working with the whole team, under Kim’s leadership, on the shortened runway to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It is particularly exciting now to be planning for the staging of national competitions in 2022 in the various paddling disciplines. We are even starting to develop selection policies in the hope of athletes and teams travelling to international events. I have no doubt that things will remain challenging, and that we will need to go on being flexible, responding sometimes to changes at short notice. However, most feedback I hear is that people want us to try to put on national competitions, even if it means that some decisions have to be made later than we would ideally wish. You can be confident that we continue to embrace this challenge!

December marks the start of summer and I’m looking forward to seeing even more people back on water. As the weather warms up, it is also an important time to remind our community of the importance of being safe in, on and around the water. The Federal Government has declared December 1 National Water Safety Day, and Paddle Australia is proud to stand alongside Surf Life Saving Australia and Royal Lifesaving Australia to remind our community, and all Australians the importance of being safe on the water not only this summer, but all year round.

Yours in paddling,

Phil Jones

Paddle Australia CEO

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