The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games are within reach for Australia’s Sprint and Paracanoe team, as they prepare to race at the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships this week, 23-27 August 2023.

With less than 12 months to go until the Paris Games, the 23-strong Australian team will compete at the World Championships in Duisburg, Germany where the all important quota spots will be up for grabs.

The Australian team will be spearheaded by Olympic gold medalists Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen, 3x Paralympic gold medalist Curtis McGrath and reigning world champions Aly Bull and Jackson Collins.

National Performance Director Kim Crane said she cannot wait to see the team in action this week and would like to thank Paddle Australia’s High Performance Program partners, plus our athletes closest support networks of family and friends who play such a critical role.

“We wish our Sprint and Paracanoe team all the best for the World Championships this week – this group of athletes have worked enormously hard to be here, each having been on a journey which at this level of performance presents its unique individual challenges.” Crane said.

“Representing your country is an occasion that comes with honor; I know that our Australian team will carry themselves with immense pride this week. I am just so very proud of this group for how they’ve prepared.

“Campaigns like this would not be possible without the support of our stakeholders and partners, like the Australian Institute of Sport and Australian Sports Commission.

“We’d also like to thank the Federal Government for its continued investment into the Australian high performance system, including last month’s announcement of $20 million to support Olympic and Paralympic bound athletes, which was such a timely investment with just under 12 months to go until Paris 2024,” she said.

Dual Paralympian Curtis McGrath was announced as the flagbearer, representing the Australian team at the opening ceremony.

“It’s pretty special, representing this country and representing our team. It’s a great honour and I hope to do my team proud,” McGrath said.

“It’s going to be nice to be back out there, I love racing at Duisburg. It’s nice to be back here and nice to be back in the uniform…I’m loving being part of the Paddle Australia team again,” he said.

Australia’s Olympic program will be vying for qualification across three female and four male events. The top six boats in the women’s K1 500, men’s K1 1000, men’s K2 500 and women’s K2 500 will earn a spot on the startline in Paris.

Extra chances to qualify will be available in the K4 500, with the top 10 men’s boats and top 10 women’s boats booking their spots in Paris. Five boats in each of the C1 categories will also qualify, with Australian Ben Manning contesting the C1 1000.

Men’s Head Coach Jimmy Owens said: “There’s always that nervous energy, but they’ve trained really hard and believe in their abilities. I’m really confident in where they are at, and I’m looking forward to seeing them execute what we’ve been working on in training.

“For me, this has been one of the best teams I’ve been able to be a part of. The culture of the team, the way they get on and carry themselves…the camaraderie and pushing each other in training have all been great to see.

“As a group, they’ve been pushing each other into new dimensions and have surprised themselves a little bit in achieving what they’ve been able to so far.

“Now, they’ve just got to relax, have fun and enjoy the journey…they know what they have to do, it’s ingrained in them, it’s in their stroke. My last words to them before they are on the water will be to keep their chin up, eyes open and make sure they are aware of their surroundings and the job they have to do,” he said.

Women’s Head Coach Rene Olsen said: “The team are feeling very excited, but also nervous because it’s a big year and also the biggest World Championships in this Olympic cycle.

“We had a fantastic training camp in Italy, at the Australian Institute of Sport European Training Centre. They do a really good job of really making sure it feels like as much as home as it can.

“We put in a lot of good training, and saw a lot of strong performances compared to where we were at last year so that gives us a bit of confidence going into the Worlds.

“The team just has to really go for it from day one…we have a philosophy that we race every single race to win it, when you know you have to race every time with full gas, that takes some of the pressure away,” he said.

For Australia’s para canoeists, they’ll also be looking to book spots for Australian boats at the Paris Games. The top six ranked athletes in each medal event will pick up a spot for their nation for next years’ Paralympic Games.

Paracanoe Head Coach Shaun Caven said: “I think it [Paralympic qualification] puts an extra bit of special emphasis on it, but it doesn’t change the process for our team.

“It’s the Senior World Championships, but with the Paralympics on the line as well it adds a little bit of spice. 

“But my message to the athletes is very simple – stay in your lane, stick to your process and do your best race, and then the results will come,” he said.

Racing gets underway on Wednesday 23 August at 5pm AEST. For the full schedule – click here

The 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships will be live streamed via the Planet Canoe Recast channel – click here

K1 200 Yale Steinepreis (WA)
K1 500* Alyce Wood (QLD)
K1 1000 Aly Bull (QLD)
K2 200 Kailey Harlen (NSW) and Natalia Drobot (NSW)
K2 500* Kailey Harlen (NSW) and Natalia Drobot (NSW)
K4 500* Aly Bull (QLD), Ally Clarke (QLD), Yale Steinepreis (WA), Ella Beere (NSW)
K1 200 Fletcher Armstrong (NSW)
K1 500 Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD)
K1 1000* Tom Green (QLD)
K2 500* Tom Green (QLD) and Jean van der Westhuyzen (QLD)
K2 1000 Fletcher Armstrong (NSW) and Jakob Hammond (NSW)
K4 500* Riley Fitzsimmons (NSW), Pierre van der Westhuyzen (QLD), Jackson Collins (QLD), Noah Havard (QLD)
C1 500 Ben Manning (QLD)
C1 1000* Ben Manning (QLD)
K2 500 Aly Bull (QLD) and Jackson Collins (QLD)
KL2 200* Susan Seipel (QLD)
VL2 200* Susan Seipel (QLD)
KL3 200* Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy (WA)
VL3 200* Amy Ralph (WA)
KL1 200* Ben Sainsbury (WA)
VL1 200 Ben Sainsbury (WA)
KL2 200* Curtis McGrath (QLD)
KL3 200* Dylan Littlehales (NSW)
VL3 200* Curtis McGrath (QLD)
VL3 200* Mark Daniels (WA)

*Olympic/Paralympic qualification event

Previous articlePA releases approved Paris 2024 Nomination and Selection Criteria for Canoe Slalom