ELEVEN CANOE SPRINT PADDLERS SELECTED FOR AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TEAM IN LARGEST TEAM SELECTION TO DATE

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Members of the Canoe Sprint team pose for a photo during the Australian 2024 Paris Olympic Games Canoe Sprint Squad Announcement at Sydney International Regatta Centre on March 09, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for AOC)

Eleven canoe sprint paddlers have been selected for the Australian Olympic Team for Paris today at Penrith’s Sydney International Regatta Centre, with returning Olympic champions, three three-time Olympians, six Olympic debutants and a brother duo.

Aly Bull, Alyce Wood and Riley Fitzsimmons will contest their third Games, with Bull and Wood equalling the most Australian Olympic appearances for Australia for sprint canoe women with Anna Wood (1992-2000).

Tokyo Olympic champions Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen return for their second Olympic experience, while Ally Clarke, Yale Steinepreis, Ella Beere, Noah Havard, Pierre van der Westhuyzen and Jackson Collins will all make their Olympic debuts, with Collins continuing the legacy of his four-time Olympian paddler father Daniel.

Alyce Wood will take on the women’s K1 500m, with Bull, Clarke, Steinepreis and Beere the K4 500m.

On the men’s side Tokyo Olympic K2 1000m champions Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen will contest the revised distance of K2 500m in Paris, with Green also contesting the K1 1000m, while Fitzsimmons, Havard, Pierre van der Westhuyzen and Jackson Collins will take on the K4 500m.

Taking the selected Australian Olympic Team size to 25 of an expected final team of 460 to 480 athletes, the 11-strong sprint canoe team is the largest to be announced to represent Australia in Paris so far.

The team boasts a wealth of international experience, with all 11 athletes having achieved podium results at World Championship or World Cup level – including silver for the women’s K4 and bronze for the men’s K2 at the 2022 World Championships

The team was announced by four time Olympian and Deputy Chef de Mission Bronwen Knox at the Canoe Sprint National Championships, with hundreds of competitors from juniors to masters celebrating the athletes’ milestone.

“Congratulations to the eleven athletes selected today to continue Australia’s incredible Olympic legacy in canoe sprint,” Ms Knox said.

“From returning Olympic champions, brothers, three three-time Olympians and six debutants, this is a team that will represent Australia with pride. 

“To make one Games is a special achievement, but to make three is a rare feat and a testament to Aly, Alyce and Riley’s dedication to excellence over their careers.

“Thank you to Paddle Australia, the coaches, families and friends who have supported these athletes on their Olympic journeys.”

Queenslander Wood returns to the Olympic arena with a new supporter – with two-year old daughter Florence a welcome addition to the Wood family cheer squad. Wood secured Australia a quota in the women’s K1 finishing fifth at the 2023 World Championships, less than a year after returning to competition.

“This Olympics is absolutely different – I’ve said from the start since coming back that no matter what happens, I’m really happy,” Wood said. “So to have made it, and have Florence cheering me on, and to have her there at the finish line no matter how good or bad I go, it makes it all worth it.

“When I was a kid, going to one Olympics would have been the absolute dream, to go to two would have been even better but to now be selected for three…it’s just out of this world.

“I’ve been paddling for 16 years now and I’ve seen a lot of change in the sport over time, and a lot of different teams and athletes. I can safely say that this is one of our best all round teams, Olympic, Paralympic, men and women.”

Jean van der Westhuyzen will be joined by his brother Pierre in Paris, becoming the second pair of brothers in Olympic history to compete in Canoe Sprint for Australia, following John and Robert Doak in 1984. 

After winning gold in the K2 1000m in Tokyo with Tom Green, Paris sees the K2 event shortened to 500m – a distance the pair won bronze in at the 2022 World Championships.

“Being announced onto my second Olympic team…the first one was a dream come true and now we can really go to Paris to cement that dream,” Jean said. 

“It will be so special to have our family and friends there with us this time – these are the people that walk the journey with you day in, day out. For them to come out and watch us in action is going to be super special and we’re going to do everything in our power to put on a great performance that we can be proud of.

Jean said being able to share this experience with his brother made Paris even more special. 

“It’s so awesome, it’s been so great to see Pierre carve his own journey and mature within the sport. To share something like this is fantastic and I can’t wait to see how the K4 guys go. We’re going to be rooting for them and cheering for them big time. To share this with my little bro, who’s not so little anymore, is really special.”

Twenty-six-year-old Yale Steinepreis said it was hard to put into words the magnitude of being named to her first Olympic Team

“There’s been a lot of work that’s been put into this moment, and I just can’t believe it,” she said.

“There were moments where I’d think maybe I’ve got this, but there were probably a lot more moments where I thought this isn’t going to happen. I never thought it was truly going to happen until now, now it’s real!

“I’ve relied on a lot of people to help me get to this point – lots of people from my home state Western Australia, obviously my family and the entire team at the AIS.

“Paris for us will be about dealing with the pressure – we’ve been at World Championships together two times now and performed, but lining up on an Olympic start line, I can’t even imagine what that will be like.

“I’m very lucky to paddle with some of my best friends, it will be something I’ll remember forever.” 

Paddle Australia President and Olympian Andrew Trim welcomed the announcement. 

“On behalf of Paddle Australia, I’d like to congratulate the 11 athletes today selected on the Australian Olympic Team for Paris 2024,” Mr Trim said.

 “Over the course of this Olympic cycle, we have watched this group of athletes represent Australia with immense pride at World Cups and World Championships, but ultimately they’ve been working towards the goal of representing their country at the Olympic Games. 

“This group of athletes bring a range of experiences, energy and enthusiasm that I know will continue to shine in Paris in July.”

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