Tokyo Olympian Daniel Watkins has announced his retirement from international level competitive Canoe Slalom.
Watkins grew up in Tasmania, and first picked up the paddle at age 11. His parents thought it would be worth Watkins learning how to paddle and signed him up to Derwent Canoe Club where he has remained ever since.
As a junior athlete, Watkins was known for his speed and boat control, watching the senior athletes with eagerness and soaking up all the information in a quiet and considered manner.
In 2014, Watkins competed in his first senior World Cup in Tacen, Slovenia. He quickly put his competitors on notice, blitzing his first run in the kayak and finishing in the top five.
In the following three years, Watkins focused on his K1 in the lead up to the 2016 Olympic selection, however the challenge of C1 was something that remained his focus.
At the beginning of 2016, Watkins made the decision to start doubling in C1 and K1, a challenge that at the highest level of mens’ competition had only been done by Fabian Lefevre, one of the greatest canoe slalom paddlers of all time.
After four years of hard work, determination and grit, Watkins won bronze at the 2020 Australian Open, qualifying his spot on the Tokyo Olympic Team.
In July 2021, Watkins made his Australian Olympic debut. In the men’s canoe, Watkins finished as the second fastest paddler in the semi finals, qualifying for his first Olympic final at his debut Games.
Watkins’ Olympic coach, and fellow Olympian Robin Jeffery, said the coach-athlete relationship he shared with Dan is one that he’ll always remember.
“I started coaching Dan in 2018 and like any good high performance relationship where you are striving to be the best, it was both challenging and rewarding,” Jeffery said.
“Dan is one of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of coaching, he is a fierce competitor who loves to play and innovate.
“He challenges everyone while supporting those around him, he is precise yet fluid, and most of all Dan is passionate.
“He was always passionate about performance and lifestyle – nature, music, coffee, his friends, vans, individuality and Tasmania. We are lucky to have Dan in the canoe slalom family.
Paddle Australia National Performance Director Kim Crane said: “Paddle Australia congratulates Dan on a remarkable career.
“Dan is a huge loss to the High Performance Program as he is such a talent. Dan knows the time is right for him and we wish him nothing but the very best.
“Paddle Australia thanks Dan for his significant contribution to Team Australia over the years and look forward to his ongoing involvement and inspiration in the Canoe Slalom community,” she said.
Dan Watkins said: “It’s been the best 15 years exploring the world and meeting so many incredible people through travelling and racing kayaks .. it’s truly shaped the person I am today and I am grateful for every day spent on the whitewater.
“Biggest shout out to my parents for introducing me to the sport and for supporting me the whole way with friends and family.
“Thank you to the Paddle Australia staff for getting me to the level I was able to achieve and to the Australian paddling scene for the time, effort and volunteering that makes every race at home happen,” he said.