Paddle Pathways – Get to know Olympic Gold Medalist Tom Green

Growing up on the Gold Coast with a background in surf lifesaving, Tom Green was never far from the water. 

He began paddling at the age of 10 on the sandy banks of Pizzey Park, quickly finding a love for the sport. 

“It all started off with my brother and sister, they were doing it, and being the younger sibling that could never be left out of anything, I started then too,” said Green.

While the first few years of his paddling journey centered around surf lifesaving racing and training, Green began flat water paddling in his teens, finding his groove and soon dedicating himself to his Olympic dream.

In 2015, Green was selected to represent Australia at the Olympic Hopes Regatta in Poland where he won a silver medal in the K1 500m and a bronze medal in the K1 1000m just months after he dominated at the Australian Canoe Sprint Championships.

Green became a dual Under 23 world champion in 2019, establishing himself on the international stage and performing well at the first of two Olympic selection events.

With his momentum growing, he ultimately realised his Olympic dream at the 2020 Australian Canoe Sprint Championships, winning gold in the K1 1000m despite the field boasting Olympic champions Murray Stewart and Green’s mentor, Ken Wallace.

“Along the journey, it’s been good to reflect back on when I started,” he began.

“I’ve always wanted to become an Olympian, you don’t know what you’re capable of until you get to that stage.”

Green made his Olympic debut at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and alongside fellow Australian Jean van der Westhuyzen, dominated in the K2 1000m in an Olympic best time, bagging an Olympic gold medal in their first ever international race as a team.

“We trained our absolute hearts out for that and did everything we could to try to achieve what we did. I’m chuffed to say we achieved that,” he said.

“Generally when you’re friends with someone you have common interests and common goals and that’s really what motivated Jean and I all the way to the Olympics and to this day.

“It’s really special to share those big moments with Jean, he’s not just my teammate he’s my best mate, so I really am grateful for that.

In reflecting on the Olympic experience, Green noted he felt a strange sense of clarity on the final start line.

“When you put on the green and gold it feels like armor, like you’re protected by the nation. It’s an honour,” he said.

“You think your mind would be going a million miles an hour, but it was unusual, it was, I guess, quite peaceful.

“I would have loved for my family to be there in Tokyo and it honestly brought tears to my eyes watching the footage of my family on the zoom call afterwards.

“For such a small crowd though they definitely screamed their hearts out, and to see the coaches and the support staff around us that have put tireless amounts of work into that, it was such a great moment.

Currently training hard towards Paris 2024, Green and van der Westhuyzen have their sights set on a new goal.

“To be honest with you, the road to Paris is quite the same as Tokyo, at least that’s the way that Jean and I are approaching it,” he said.

“It’s a different event so we’re just keeping our heads down and training as hard as we can. We don’t feel like we’re the hunted, we still feel like we’re out there hunting.”

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