Australian Paracanoeists Focus on Paralympic Games in 2021 after Strong 2020 Season & Reflect on Current Situation
It has been a rollercoaster few weeks for Paddle Australia’s Rio 2016 Paralympians Curtis McGrath (QLD), Amanda Reynolds (VIC), Susan Seipel (QLD) and Dylan Littlehales (NSW) who were the stand-out paracanoeists at the recent Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint National Championships.
With their performances the team locked in their Paddle Australia 2020 team nominations and world championships team selections, while the Paralympic Games were postponed until next year.
“It was really nice to have all the boxes ticked at nationals. We have a good team and we were very happy about everyone’s performance this year,” Paralympic champion Curtis McGrath said.
With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games now being postponed until next year and the 2020 Paracanoe World Championships in May in Germany expected to be re-scheduled as well, the goal posts have shifted extensively for the team.
Once it does go ahead though, the Va’as will premier at the Tokyo Paralympic Games giving McGrath who is a four-time world champion in the K1 and a six-time world champion in the Va’as, an opportunity to aim for double gold.
“With the way the world is going, we don’t know what is going to happen but I like to think that on the day we get there, I will be up there on the podium, hopefully on the top step but we never know what is going to happen,” McGrath said about the current uncertainties.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games have now been rescheduled to start on 24 August 2021 given athletes a bit more certainty in these unprecedented times.
“This is a bit more time to prepare and it’s nice to know when we are aiming for now,” Curtis McGrath took to Instagram following the joint announcement by the IOC, IPC and Tokyo 2020 on Tuesday.
Given the current environment, McGrath also stressed that there are far more important things to worry about though than the Games.
“I believe the decision to call-off the Paralympic Games for a year is definitely the right one because first and foremost the safety of everyone involved in the Paralympics, whether it be the athletes, the spectators, the staff, the volunteers should be the prioritisation in front of everyone’s mind,” McGrath said.
McGrath continues to train but admits that it is hard to focus given the current world events and with the Games now 509 days away.
“I’m still training because I’m not sure what to do yet and I really enjoy what I do, but it’s difficult as I’m not sure what I’m doing right now has purpose or focus and it’s been hard getting on the water each morning. But I feel by continuing of what I’m doing and training, I hopefully find a plan and find a solution in terms of motivation and focus and looking towards the future in a positive light.” McGrath reflected on the current situation in a video posted on his social media accounts.
“I’d like to think that we will get through this stronger and better than ever as a society and as an athlete. We are adherent to a bit of adversity but this is a serious knock and everyone is involved. I paddle a kayak and I can’t imagine the people that are directly affected by this COVID-19.
“So far, I’ve been healthy and have come through it alright but there are tens of thousands of people around the world and that’s heart breaking to see. I’d like to see the end soon, hopefully we can find a vaccine and as a society we can get back out on the water, start paddling again. I hope the Paralympic Games will be bigger and better than ever and shine a bright light on what is possible in the human endeavours of sport to achieve greatness,” McGrath added.
McGrath sentiment was echoed by Paralympic bronze medallist Susan Seipel, who said that she will “keep working towards my goal of the Tokyo Paralympics, whenever they will be held. But at the moment, it breaks my heart to see what is happening around the world due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
“What is happening right now is way bigger and more important than sport. So keeping everything in perspective really helps to reset. I was always planning to continue to paddle beyond Tokyo so I still have a lot of motivation to keep working hard and improve,” Seipel said about the current challenges and the new date for the Paralympic Games.
“I plan on continuing to paddle for fitness while following the government recommendations. Paddle Australia has been really supportive during this time and has helped to organise some equipment so I can also train at home. And first and foremost, we all must adapt our behaviours, look after each other, and fight this together,” Seipel added about the weeks ahead.
All of Paddle Australia’s Rio 2016 Paralympians have continued to improve over the 2019 international and 2020 domestic season with PBs across all events.
Seipel put in one of her best national seasons yet with strong racing in both the va’a and kayak.
“I was very happy with my consistency and performances over this domestic season. It is definitely a strange feeling to not have any international competitions to look forward to this year but with the extra time it’s a good opportunity to make changes to technique and really work on the basics,” Seipel said.
Paralympic silver medallist in the KL2 200, Amanda Reynolds, also continued to improve putting in impressive races in the K1 200 at both Oceania Champs and nationals this year, while team youngster and Rio Paralympian Dylan Littlehales showed one of the strongest improvements amongst Australia’s paracanoeists over the last four years setting a series of PBs over the last couple of months.
“I’m a little bit disappointed (about the postponement), but also a relieved because we now know the new date after not knowing what was going on for a few weeks,” Littlehales said about the postponement of the Games.
“I had a very good domestic season this year and got half a second PB. I would have liked to keep that momentum going into Tokyo but now that I know I can get to that level, I’m confident that I will be able to do it again in the coming months,” the 20-year old added.
Australia secured all four Paralympic quota spots at last year’s ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships with the new qualification system yet to be confirmed.
In regards to the quota spots, IPC President Andre Parsons said that “now that the dates are confirmed, the IPC will work with the International Federations to establish new qualification criteria which will fully respect those that have already qualified for the Games.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place from 24 August to 5 September 2021.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan today agreed new dates for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, in 2021.
The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be celebrated from 23 July to 8 August 2021, and they also agreed on new dates for the Paralympic Games, which will be celebrated from 24 August until 5 September 2021.
The leaderships of the key parties came together via telephone conference earlier today, joined by IOC President Thomas Bach, Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshirō, Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and Olympic and Paralympic Minister Hashimoto Seiko, and agreed on the new schedule.
This decision was taken based on three main considerations and in line with the principles established by the IOC Executive Board (EB) on 17 March 2020 and confirmed at its meeting today. These were supported by all the International Summer Olympic Sports Federations (IFs) and all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs):
To protect the health of the athletes and everyone involved, and to support the containment of the COVID-19 virus.
To safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport.
The global international sports calendar.
These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 (Olympic Games: 24 July to 9 August 2020 and Paralympic Games: 25 August to 6 September 2020), also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs. Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented.
In a call on Tuesday 24 March 2020, based on information provided by the WHO at the time, IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō concluded that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held in their complete form and not later than summer 2021. The Prime Minister reiterated that the government of Japan stands ready to fulfil its responsibility for hosting these successful Games. At the same time, IOC President Thomas Bach stressed the full commitment of the IOC to successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Following today’s decision, the IOC President said: “I want to thank the International Federations for their unanimous support and the Continental Associations of National Olympic Committees for the great partnership and their support in the consultation process over the last few days. I would also like to thank the IOC Athletes’ Commission, with whom we have been in constant contact. With this announcement, I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Andrew Parsons, the President of the IPC, commented: “It is fantastic news that we could find new dates so quickly for the Tokyo 2020 Games. The new dates provide certainty for the athletes, reassurance for the stakeholders and something to look forward to for the whole world. When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo next year, they will be an extra-special display of humanity uniting as one, a global celebration of human resilience and a sensational showcase of sport. With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games 512 days away, the priority for all those involved in the Paralympic Movement must be to focus on staying safe with their friends and family during this unprecedented and difficult time.”
The President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Mori Yoshirō, said: “IOC President Thomas Bach and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee held a conference call today to discuss in detail the revised dates of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Hashimoto Seiko and Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko joined the call.
“I proposed that the Games should be hosted between July and August 2021, and I really appreciate that President Bach, having discussed this proposal with the various international sports federations and other related organisations, kindly accepted my proposal.
“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable. In terms of transport, arranging volunteers and the provision of tickets for those in Japan and overseas, as well as allowing for the COVID-19 situation, we think that it wold be better to reschedule the Games to one year later than planned, in the summer of 2021.
“Notwithstanding the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the first time in history, and various other issues that have already been highlighted, the event schedule is the cornerstone of future preparations, and I am convinced that taking this decision promptly will help speed up future preparations.
“I would like to thank all the stakeholders, including the host city Tokyo and the Government of Japan, for their hard work during this short period. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will continue to work hard for the success of next year’s Games.”
Governor Koike Yuriko said: “In consideration of the global coronavirus outbreak, we need a certain timeframe before we fully prepare for the delivery of Games that are safe and secure for the athletes and spectators. Also, the preparation for the new dates will go smoothly, as the dates match with same timeframe as the original competition dates, corresponding with ticketing, venue staffing, volunteers and transport. Therefore, I believe that celebrating the opening of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on 23 July 2021 is ideal. The athletes, volunteers, torchbearers and local municipality governments have been concerned about the situation. Since we now have concrete new dates to aim for, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will commit all its resources, and work closely with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the national government and other stakeholders to fully prepare for the delivery of Games that are safe and secure.”
It has previously been confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will remain unchanged. This is a result of the fact that these Olympic Games Tokyo , in agreement with Japan, will remain the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.
Copy thanks to IOC
ICF supports new dates for Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games
The International Canoe Federation fully supports the International Olympic Committee’s decision to hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in July and August next year (2021).
The ICF said it was the fairest outcome for the athletes and officials, who will hopefully now get the chance to undertake a full pre-Games preparation.
“We will continue to work with the International Olympic Committee to finalise the qualification events and dates for those quotas that remain unallocated,” ICF secretary general, Simon Toulson, said.
“The IOC has already announced that all quotas that have been allocated already will remain valid for next year’s Games, a decision we fully support.
“Obviously the forced postponement of this year’s Games has caused problems and disruption for our athletes and the broader canoeing community, but everyone is aware there are people all over the world facing far greater challenges than we, as an international sport, are facing.”
Mr Toulson said the new dates for the Olympics and Paralympics will clash with several events on the ICF’s 2021 competition calendar, but said the federation will work with the host organisers to find new dates that cause the least inconvenience to everyone involved.
“Moving events like the Olympics and Paralympics is never going to be easy, and it will provide headaches for all involved,” Mr Toulson said.
“We are very fortunate in the ICF to have some fantastically loyal and professional host venues, and we will work very hard to make sure any necessary changes occur with as little inconvenience as possible to these important partners.
“As always, the health and safety of everyone involved in the international canoeing community will be our priority. We thank everyone for their patience so far.”
The ICF is in regular contact with the IOC during this difficult time, and will continue to provide updates as soon as they come to hand.
Paddle Australia Update: 2020 International Competition Calendar Canoe Slalom, Sprint and Paracanoe
This is an update on the current situation regarding international tours that had been planned for athletes who have recently been selected to respective teams to attend upcoming international competitions.
The ICF recently provided an update on the coronavirus situation and its effect on upcoming competitions. They confirmed that all ICF competitions are postponed or cancelled up until 31 May.
Given the situation has rapidly changed in the last 10days and with all indications suggesting that COVID-19 is accelerating, along with the recent measures (including travel bans) put in place by the Australian Government as well as the closure of all SIS/SAS and National Centre of Excellences, Paddle Australia would like to give these teams some clarity.
In order to hopefully reduce some anxiety for everyone involved due to the ongoing uncertainty, Paddle Australia has made the decision to not send any National Teams overseas between now and the end of July.
Further updates will be provided as information comes to hand and certainly once the ICF provides further clarity for competitions being held beyond July 31. This information is expected to be received late April/early May.
In the event that the ICF postpones, as opposed to cancels, any of the following competitions, Paddle Australia will re-evaluate its position at that point in time.
This decision affects the following teams and competitions:
World Cup 1 (Ivréa, ITA, 5-7 June)
World Cup 2 (Pau, FRA, 12-14 June)
Junior & U23 World Championships (Ljubljana, SLO, 7-12 July)
World Cup 3 (Liptovsky, 21-23 August)
World Cup 4 (Prague, 18-20 September)
World Cup 5 (Markkleeberg, 25-27 September)
Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe:
Asia Pacific Regatta (Japan, 15-17 May) – a decision has been made to POSTPONE this regatta until 2021 (Japan).
World Cup 1 (Racice, CZE, 7-10 May) – already CANCELLED by the ICF
World Cup 2 (including Paracanoe World Championships) (Duisburg, 21-24 May)
Junior and U23 World Championships (Brandenburg, 16-19 July)
Olympic Hopes Regatta (Szeged, 11-13 September)
Whilst there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how long this pandemic will continue for, Paddle Australia have made the decision that the likelihood of any competitions scheduled before July 31, is unrealistic.
Making this decision early, provides individuals with certainty, reduces anxiety as a result of the unknown and allows athletes, coaches and family support networks to plan accordingly.
Selected athletes have already been informed and whilst we are sure you that our athletes will be disappointed with this news, as we know how hard everyone has worked to obtain team selection, given the current status of COVID-19, the Australian Government restrictions, along with the inability to train adequately for these events, we believe making this decision early is the right one and will allow individuals to focus on the more important elements of life right now.
We encourage our athletes, if possible, to keep active on the water in a safe and healthy manner with the knowledge that things will improve and life will get back to normal.
Please see the links below for pertinent information.
Fourteen canoe sprint paddlers have been officially selected to the Australian Olympic Team, becoming the first athletes selected since confirmation of the Games postponement until 2021.
Seven athletes will make their Olympic debut, a further six selected for their second Games, and London 2012 gold medallist Murray Stewart making his third Olympic Team.
The Australian Olympic Committee has confirmed selected athletes shall remain members of the Australian Olympic Team to Tokyo, and athletes who have completed the entire qualification process, under the existing National Federation nomination criteria and international qualification systems, shall be nominated and selected in line with the existing policy.
With the Canoe Sprint athletes earning their nomination at Paddle Australia’s selection trials held in February and March this year, the fourteen athletes were officially selected by the AOC, securing their places on the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo.
Jo Brigden-Jones, Alyssa Bull, Catherine McCarthur, Shannon Reynolds, Jaime Roberts and Alyce Wood (nee Burnett) will contest the women’s kayak events (K4 500m, K2 500m, K1 500m, K1 200m), Riley Fitzsimmons, Thomas Green, Murray Stewart, Lachlan Tame, Jean van der Westhuyzen and Jordan Wood will take on the men’s kayak (K4 500m, K2 1000m, K1 1000m, K1 200m) while Josephine Bulmer and Bernadette Wallace will represent Australia in women’s canoe (C2 500m, C1 200), with women’s sprint canoeing on the Olympic programme for the first time.
“Athletes, like communities right across the world right now, are facing uncertainty about what the coming months hold,” Mr Chesterman said. “But I’m delighted that these athletes have some certainty knowing the Games will be held in 2021 and that they are now part of the Australian Olympic Team.
“These athletes have worked so hard for years for this opportunity and the fourteen paddlers announced today will continue the fantastic Olympic legacy our country has in Canoe Sprint in Tokyo next year.
“The calibre of these athletes both on and off the water is something Australians can be proud of. With a team including paramedic Jo Brigden-Jones and firefighter Aly Bull, clearly their impact goes beyond sport to keeping our communities safe, a role that is vital right now.
“Today’s selection is a fantastic achievement and we’re proud to have you on the Team for 2021. Those back for a second and a third Games are taking a special place in Australian Olympic history. Maintaining excellence over such a long period is exceptional.
“I thank Paddle Australia, all the coaches and support staff and the family and friends who stand alongside these athletes to allow them to do what they do. “
31-year-old London Olympian Jo Brigden-Jones knows first-hand the importance of prioritising community safety in the current climate.
“It’s been such a rollercoaster of emotions, from qualifying at the trials, to not knowing if the Games would be cancelled, the official postponement and now being officially selected,” Brigden-Jones said.
“It’s such a high to qualify and I’m so proud of fulfilling a goal I’ve had for so long, but what’s happening around the world is so scary. Postponing the Games was the best thing to do for the health of the world.
“As a paramedic I have a frontline perspective of the current situation – while my Olympic dream is on hold for now, the delay means I can throw myself into my paramedic work for the next few months to do everything I can.
“It’s a different motivation to what drives me when I’m on the water, but if we can do our best to follow health advice and come together as a community we can get through this and the entire community can be back chasing our other goals as soon as we can.”
Queenslander Tom Green is the youngest canoeist on the team, with the 20-year-old set to make his Olympic debut after dominating the nomination trials.
“This is a dream come true,” Green said. “I’ve hoped to make an Olympics since I was just a kid, to have it come true is an incredible feeling.
“From looking up to Olympic champions like Kenny Wallace, to getting to train alongside him and learning from the entire team – athletes, coaches and support staff – I couldn’t ask for a better learning environment. Everything I’ve been able to achieve is purely down to the coaching, support, advice and encouragement from the paddling team.
“The postponement is definitely the right call, what’s going right now is much bigger than sport and needs everyone to work together to get through it. I’m looking forward to seeing the world come through it and being able to come back on a level playing field at the Olympics next year.
“I think athletes around the world are going through the same thing – we’re used to going 100 miles an hour and we’re down to zero, but I’ll take the time for some much needed rest, will work out at home and just take the best advice from our coaches and support staff over the coming months. I’ll be more motivated than ever to be at my absolute best for Tokyo next year.”
Paddle Australia President Andrea Quitty welcomed the paddlers’ selection for the Games next year.
“We are very proud to see a full team of Canoe Sprint paddlers selected for Tokyo 2020 and are looking forward to seeing them in Tokyo next year,” Ms Quitty said. “It’s a very exciting team that includes Games debutantes, London and Rio Olympians, Olympic medallists and for the first time ever our women canoeists.
“We have seen some very impressive performances at our Olympic selection trials that made for a tight and highly competitive battle over the places and it is great to see this recognised despite the postponement of the Games this week
“We are very fortunate to have such an exceptional mix of experience and young talent on the team. There are challenging times ahead for all of us but we know our athletes will continue to strive for success with the same resilience and strength that they have shown in securing their Olympic team places. Congratulations all and we are looking forward to celebrating with you and the rest of the world when we get to Tokyo 2020 next year. ”
Today’s selection takes the selected Team size for Tokyo 2020 to 56 athletes.
The Australian Olympic Committee has confirmed selected athletes shall remain members of the Australian Olympic Team to Tokyo, and athletes who have completed the entire qualification process, under the existing National Federation nomination criteria and international qualification systems, shall be nominated and selected in line with the existing policy.Where athletes have not completed the entire qualification process, the next steps will depend on actions taken by International Federations and the IOC regarding international qualification systems.
Sprint Canoe athletes selected to the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo
3rd (2012, 2016)
Jean Van der Westhuyzen
Alyce Wood (nee Burnett)
*Note: specific events each athlete to compete in at Tokyo determined at later date