As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Paddle Australia (PA) is fortunate to have many strong and successful female athletes, coaches and officials breaking barriers and setting the gold-class standard across paddle sports in Australia, and globally.
One such individual is PA’s Performance Pathways Lead for Canoe Slalom, Ros Lawrence, who stepped into the role almost a year ago following her successful 15-year career as a slalom athlete.
Having been involved in the sport for almost two decades, Lawrence said she was excited to see the medals for female slalom paddlers at the Olympic Games become equal to the male medal opportunities at Tokyo 2020, with the introduction of the Women’s C1 event.
“It was wonderful to finally see equal medal opportunities for men and women at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, with some truly fantastic racing on display there from the women’s C1. Previously in Canoe Slalom a single nation could qualify in three classes for men and only one for women,” Lawrence reflected.
“WC1 was introduced to the World Championships for the first time officially in 2010, the World Cups from 2009, and was announced in the Olympic schedule much later than this.
“If you consider the short amount of time that WC1 has been a fully funded and supported event it is not even the entire career-span of an athlete. It will be exciting to see the class develop even further over the years.”
As she continues to navigate her journey from being an elite slalom paddler to the slalom performance pathways lead, Lawrence has paid tribute to other females in the slalom industry who are making waves and creating exciting change.
“There are so many inspiring movers and shakers in our sport that it is hard to name just a few.
“Emmie Barratt is the Coach for the Western Sydney Whitewater Club. She has a one-year-old baby and a race-horse training business with her partner, so life is busy, but I’m so glad she has found the time to be involved in Slalom again.
“Emmie was a successful Jnr/U23 paddler – she made the U23 team before she moved out of Juniors, she medalled at ECA cups in Europe as a junior and she has a wealth of experience to bring to the sport.”
The former world champion has a deep understanding of the pathways to podium journey and said she has enjoyed using her athlete experience to help shape the pathway for the next generation of Australian slalom superstars.
However, she points out that we all have a role to play in encouraging more females to get involved in the sport, while supporting the parents, coaches and volunteers who support canoe slalom from a grassroots level.
“In Australia we have incredibly strong women at the top and in our pathway, but we need more!” Lawrence said.
“It brings me great satisfaction seeing the time and effort our pathways athletes are committing to our sport, while being able to support that with coaching and seeing the rapid improvements that come from this.
“We have a wonderful pathways team who bring so much experience and knowledge to our program and they are having a huge impact. However, the bigger picture of the sport is still largely volunteer driven and the parents, coaches, race volunteers and administrators are a huge part of the success of slalom in Australia.”
“I think it comes down to each and every one of us to encourage the girls and women of all ages in our lives to be confident, take risks, do things that might scare them (like learning to paddle on whitewater) and grow strong,” she said.