The Road to Tokyo Goes via Auckland for Australia’s Men’s Canoe Slalom Athletes

Olympic selection points and final Olympic Quota Spot up for grabs at 2020 Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships, Auckland (1-3 February 2020)

Six months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, all eyes will be on the men’s canoe slalom events this weekend with the selection battle kicking off at the 2020 Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships in Auckland (1-3 February 2020). The Oceania Champs will be the first of two selection events to determine the best paddlers to represent Australia in Tokyo as well as at the 2020 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup series and the U23 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.

The Oceania Championships also double up as an Olympic qualification event with the men’s C1 the only Olympic quota to be decided in Auckland as no Oceania nation was successful at the 2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. Australia, New Zealand and Cook Islands will contest for the quota and on paper Australia looks to have the edge, but New Zealand will have the home course advantage.

A large contingent of Paddle Australia’s canoe slalom paddlers are contesting the event at Vector Wero Whitewater Park across all age groups as the event also counts towards Australian selection for the 2020 U23 team.

Australia’s canoe slalom paddlers already secured the maximum quota spots per country for the Tokyo 2020 men’s K1 (K1M) and women’s C1 (C1W) and K1(K1W) events at the 2019 World Championships and will be looking to add a quota in the men’s C1 event this weekend.

National selection trials, which include the Oceania Championships as well as the 2020 Canoe Slalom Australian Open (21-23 February 2020), will then confirm who will be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection.

Internal team selection rivalry will be particularly intense in the men’s K1 – where both New Zealand and Australia have qualified boat spots for Tokyo but the men’s C1 is wide open with a continental qualification still up for grabs between paddlers from Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Each of these National Federations have been able to nominate up to three athletes to contest for the quota.

For Australia, last year’s world championships C1 athletes Daniel Watkins (TAS), Ian Borrows (NSW) and Tristan Carter (VIC) have been nominated to earn the Continental Olympic quota in men’s canoe.

Ten Senior and U23 paddlers will be representing Australia in the men’s C1 and with the event also counting towards Olympic and national team selection, the pressure will be on to not only secure the quota spot but also put in a strong performance to gain valuable selection points.
 
Tasmanian and 2019 national team paddler Daniel Watkins took home the national title at the 2020 Paddle Australia Canoe Slalom nationals at Penrith Whitewater Stadium a couple of weeks ago (10-12 January 2020) and will be looking to back it up in Auckland. 
 
“The men’s C1 is super competitive at the moment and I was really happy to have been fast enough to get the win at nationals. The weekend gave me confidence in my form going into Olympic selection and I hope I can carry this form and win the first selection race to take the pressure off the rest of the selection,” Watkins said. 
 
Rio Olympian in the men’s C1 Ian Borrows (NSW) as well as Victoria’s national team paddler Tristan Carter will also be aiming for the top to secure Australia the quota and to put themselves forward for selection. 

Ethan Hodson (NSW) and U23 paddler Steven Lowther (WA) finished second and third respectively at nationals and will keep the pressure on in Auckland as will nationals’s fourth placed Brodie Crawford (WA).
 
Selection will also be the main focus in the men’s K1 event. Rio Olympian Lucien Delfour secured Australia the men’s K1 quota spot at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in September last year, but names on seats will only be decided following the final national selection trials at the end of February. 
 
After winning his second national title in Penrith a couple of weeks ago, Delfour will aim to put in another strong performance in Auckland. He will be pushed for the top spot by Daniel Watkins who is contesting both the men’s C1 and K1 events as well as Tim Anderson (NSW), who made his first world championships semi-final last year and was the second highest ranked Australian at nationals, followed by Western Australian Ben Pope

Lucien Delfour - Photo Jaime Troughton Dscribe Media

Lucien Delfour – Photo Jaime Troughton Dscribe Media 

While the pressure is on for Australia’s men’s kayak and canoe paddlers as well as athletes vying for U23 selection, Paddle Australia’s dual Olympic medallist and most successful canoe slalom paddler of all time, Jessica Fox, has already secured her Tokyo 2020 ticket and is the only Paddle Australia athlete who has already been selected on to the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic team.

Fox, who won the double at the Paddle Australia Canoe Slalom Championships a couple of weeks ago, will use the Oceania Champs as part of her Tokyo 2020 preparation, where she will be able to go for double gold in the women’s K1 and C1.

She will be competing at Vector Wero for the fourth time and will be contesting both the women’s K1 and C1. She will be up against a strong international field, including her long-time rival, New Zealand’s triple Olympian Luuka Jones, with the pair sharing podiums in some big events in recent years. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Jones won silver in the women’s K1, while Fox finished third. At the 2018 World Champs Fox took second place and Jones third.

“It’s great to have such awesome competition close to home – I’ve known Luuka for years now and she’s one of the strongest paddlers in the world and on her home course, she’ll be hard to beat. I think back on Rio and how special it was to share the podium with her and to have New Zealand and Australia side by side, like a sisterhood in a way. It was nice to have the Southern Hemisphere represented when it’s such a European-centred sport and the growth of the sport in the Southern Hemisphere is fantastic,” Fox said, who starts the Olympic season as world number one in both the women’s K1 and C1.

Other women who will compete at the Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships and have already qualified for Tokyo Olympics, include Jane Nicholas (Cook Islands) and Martina Wegman, (Netherlands) in K1W.

Jessica Fox - Lucien Delfour - Photo Jaime Troughton Dscribe Media

Jessica Fox – Photo Jaime Troughton Dscribe Media 

Australia is represented in both the women’s K1 and C1 events with a strong contingent of paddlers, including last year’s national team paddlers Noemie Fox (NSW), Kate Eckhardt (TAS), Georgina Collin (WA) and Demelza Wall (TAS). Up and coming junor paddler Sophie Wilson (NSW), who made her first senior final in the K1 at nationals, will also be contesting both events.

Entry is free for spectators across all three days of the event, with the championships starting at 9 am local time (AEDT +2 hrs) on Saturday, 1 February 2020.

See entries HERE 

For more info see here: https://www.canoeicf.com/canoe-slalom-continental-championships/auckland-2020

Event details
(Vector Wero Whitewater Park, Manukau, Auckland)
Saturday Feb 1: 9am-3pm Oceania qualifying rounds
Sunday Feb 2: 9am-midday Oceania semis and finals, MC1 + WK1
Monday Feb 3: 9am-midday Oceania semis and finals, WC1 + MK1
1-2.30pm Slalom Extreme

2020 ICF Oceania Olympic Qualification in Men’s Canoe (Slalom) 
The Olympic Qualification Event in Men’s Canoe will be conducted at the Oceania Championships.

The Oceania Olympic Quota place will be determined on the final result achieved in the Oceania Championships by the highest ranked nominated athlete from an eligible Oceania National Federation i.e. in the semi-final or final.

Australia, New Zealand and Cook Islands are eligible to earn the Continental Olympic Quota in Men’s Canoe. Each of these National Federations may nominate up to 3 athletes to contest for the quota.

For Australia, last year’s world championships C1 athletes Daniel Watkins (TAS), Ian Borrows (NSW) and Tristan Carter (VIC) have been nominated to earn the Continental Olympic quota in men’s canoe.

Livestreaming
The 2020 Oceania canoe slalom championships will be livestreamed on Sky Sport Next, in partnership with the New Zealand Sport Collective.

Saturday livestream:

Sunday livestream:

Monday livestream:

About the Championships
Oceania Championship is the continental champs for deciding the remaining quotas for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. For Australia this is the final chance to secure the men’s C1 quota spot.

The Oceania championships double up as the first Olympic qualifier for many Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Island paddlers, with the second in Australia next month (Australian Open, Sydney International Whitewater Festival 21-23 February 2020).

Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships are a part of the build-up to New Zealand hosting the International Canoe Federation Junior and U23 World Champs at Vector Wero Whitewater Park in April 2021.

Talent Development Coach Vacancy

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Taylor Maiden Voyage Across 450km of the Hunter River

Lauren and Ben Taylor (members of Newy Paddlers) raised nearly $50,000 for Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, the amazing cancer hospital that looked after their mum. 

Here is their story:

Taylor Maiden Voyage took place over 15 days, 450km and more than 100 hours of walking and kayaking. There was blood, there was sweat and there were blisters. The worst of which was the blisters Josh got from doing the dishes on the first morning. Diabolical weren’t they Josh?

A lot of people have asked what our main challenges were, of which there were quite a few.

The elements were a big challenge. On our first night we literally froze. We woke up to a massive frost and all our drink bottles had frozen overnight. But that didn’t last long. Soon it was stinking hot, so we were lucky that the cool river was never far away. We had some bad days on the kayaks with wind blowing straight in our faces pushing us back up-river. But, luckily, Ben and I don’t get grumpy at all when it’s windy. It makes us so happy! We’re super pleasant to be around in the wind.

Obviously, the water was a big challenge. To start with, there was heaps and it was fast flowing and throwing us into trees. As you can see from the videos, Ben and I got really good at a graceful dismount from our kayaks. And then there was no water. Dragging a kayak for 50km is just fantastic! Highly recommend it. When we finally got to the bottom end of the river and found water again, we had the tides to contend with. And for some reason the incoming tide always seemed to coordinate exactly with the wind just to really make us feel like we were going absolutely nowhere. I’m pretty sure mum was having a right old cackle at our misfortune.

The wildlife also kept us on our toes. Ben aged about five years every time he saw a snake and we saw seven all up. As you can tell, I’m the clever one of the family that let him go first and scare them all off. There were giant lizards all along the banks. Whenever they saw you, they would jump into the water with an almighty splash and scare the hell out of you. We had birds swoop us, giant mullet attacking us and then there were the killer carp. They were huge. They would wallow in the shallows until you came right up alongside them and then take off straight at the boat. My screams didn’t seem to deter them.

Fences created quite a challenge. We came across 130 of them during the trip. Most of them were during the walking section where in one day we would have to navigate 30 fences, crawling under them, ducking though them or climbing over them. Up on the farms where it was hot, dusty and dry, a mirage didn’t take the form of a cool oasis, it would appear as a fence with lots of gates and an easy to use latching system.

Luckily some of the farmers have fences about as solid as my Uncle Alan’s, so they were easy to navigate but others were built of much sturdier stuff. There was barbed wire fences and electric fences or a combination of both. And the really fun ones are those across the river that are really hard to see as you’re approaching in a kayak and risk getting coat hangered on. But we managed. I’ll tell you what, it is certainly an exercise in trust when your little brother is holding up an electric fence while you pass under it in knee deep water with a kayak. Luckily, he wasn’t brave enough to pull anything. Otherwise we might not both be here tonight.

I learned a lot on this trip. I learned just how beautiful the river is. It’s largely forgotten by the majority of people who live nearby but it is absolutely beautiful and so very important. We are so lucky that so many have been able to rely on it for so long.

I learned that deciphering Dad’s packing system was like trying to crack the enigma code. Camping equipment was never where you’d expect it to be and every day each item would have a new home that was unknown to everyone, including Dad who had packed it. ‘It’s in the system’ was the common phrase used to explain the unknown whereabouts of the sunscreen, toilet paper or frying pan.

I learned about the people who live along the river and the communities nearby. We were blown away by the amount of people who came down to the river to cheer us on, made signs for us to ‘just keep paddling’ or just wanted to have a yarn. I learned how many of these people have lost loved ones to cancer or have seen their nearest and dearest battle this terrible disease. It made me sad and angry to hear their stories, but I learned that Hunter people are tough and willing to fight to find a cure.

I learned that Ben and I have been bred tough too. Mum and Dad have instilled in us a resilience that I didn’t know existed, well not in myself anyway. It seems like a cliché, but when it got tough on the river we would put our heads down and get it done. I mean I whinged a bit but we got it done. You hear sports commentators say that an athlete had left it all on the field or pitch or track. I can say that each day we left it all on the river. At the end of each paddle I was spent, having given everything just to take those last few paddle strokes. But I learned to get back up and do it again the next day.

And it was so worth it. Coming around the headland at Stockton to see that crowd of people standing on the rocks was a moment of pure elation. Made all the more wonderful by Ben stacking it on the beach.

And we’re so happy that we were able to hit our fundraising goal and then smash it because Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is such an amazing organisation and we know that this money will go towards helping those people diagnosed with cancer and their families, and providing hope that one day we will find a cure.

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to my boyfriend, Josh, and Ben’s girlfriend, Gemma, for being so supportive and for supporting the support crew. To Dad, we couldn’t have done it without you. You made sure that we made it each day and I’m sure if either of us couldn’t have finished you would have got in the kayak and done it yourself. To Mum, thanks for showing us how to be tough, how to put our heads down and just get it done. And to my brother Ben, thank you for saying ‘c’mon Lozzy’ when I was doing it tough, for listening to my whingeing, for scaring off the snakes, for dragging my kayak over trees, for giving me your walking sticks, for bribing me with Allen’s lollies and putting up with me for an entire two weeks. You’re my favourite brother, my mate and I’d follow you anywhere. Bring on Taylor’s Second Voyage.

Canoeing Ireland Awards 2020

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Olympians and Australian Paddle Community Fundraise in Support of Bushfire Appeal

Olympian and firefighter Alyssa Bull, Paramedic Jo Brigden-Jones and Jessica Fox Call for Support of Athlete Commission Fundraiser for Australian Red Cross

In the eye of Australia’s devastating bushfire situation, Paddle Australia’s Athlete Commission and the Australia Paddle Team have thrown their support behind a fundraiser for the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster and Recovery Appeal and have set up a ‘GoFundMe’ fundraising page to raise funds for the affected communities.

Paddle Australia athletes and staff have put in donations with the athletes also using their national and international networks to further fundraise over the next few weeks and leading into Olympic and Paralympic national selection trials. See the GoFundMe page here: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

“We are devastated seeing areas of our beautiful country being destroyed by fires. We all want to support those affected in any way we can and Paddle Australia athletes raising funds for the Australian Redcross Bushfire relief is a small way our paddling community can help those in need right now,” Jaime Roberts, Vice Chair Athlete Commission said about the motivation to launch the fundraiser.

“We will use our upcoming racing to help promote further donations to the Australian Redcross and other charities to help in Bushfire relief and hope we can make a valuable contribution to our towns and communities that need it most,” Roberts added.

The Australian Paddle Team has a close and personal connection to the emergency services involved in battling the blazes around the country and supporting the communities in need with canoe sprint Olympian Alyssa Bull a professional firefighter with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and fellow canoe sprint Olympian Jo Brigden-Jones a paramedic at NSW Ambulance, when they are not training for their Tokyo 2020 campaign.

Not only do Bull and Brigden-Jones know first-hand what is involved in all the efforts currently invested by Australian emergency services, but with one out of three Australians affected by the bushfires, they also have their personal experiences that led to the fundraising initiative.

“I believe it’s important for our athlete group to help fundraise for our Australian communities who have been affected by the horrendous bushfires,” Jo Brigden-Jones said.

“For me personally, many of my family members and friends have been impacted by the bushfires so far. My cousin stayed to fight for his family’s home in Batemans Bay, the fire reached their back fence and he managed to put the fire out. My Aunt and Uncle had to evacuate their home in the Kangaroo Valley as the fire got within 2km of their home. My friend was due to get married in the Kangaroo Valley last week, but unfortunately the wedding venue succumbed to the fires and they had to reorganise a wedding in three days. My paramedic friend lost his entire home in Batlow,” Jo Brigden-Jones described her personally connection to the disaster.

“The NSW Ambulance service has played a big role in keeping the community safe during these fires. As a paramedic, I am part of a big family of paramedics who always look out for each other and I am proud of my colleagues who have been working tirelessly in the fire affected areas, caring for the firefighters and public who need our assistance,” Brigden-Jones added about the efforts of her colleagues.

Jo Brigden-Jones with Paramedics Patting Dog last week – photo supplied

Alyssa Bull
graduated from Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy in 2018 and has been working for QFES ever since and like Brigden-Jones knows exactly what goes into the super human efforts of the emergency services, who have and continue to invest endless hours into saving lives and communities.

“I understand the hot hard work that is involved with fighting bush fires. Those that have been working endless hours since September, when the fire season seemed to start, are doing a tremendous job. Being away from their families and most of them being away from their jobs while volunteering their time, we cannot thank them enough,” Alyssa Bull said.

“The fires have been ruthless causing destruction to everything in their path. However, once they’ve passed the next challenge is to rebuild. These affected communities need our support now but they will also need continued support to get back on their feet once the fires have gone.”

“It is amazing to see the amount of support and donations coming from everybody across Australia and even internationally. As an athlete, I know it’s hard to even just pay bills with what we earn. It’s so heart-warming to still see so many Aussies, even those that haven’t been directly affected, trying to help in any way that they can,” Bull added.

Alyssa Bull with colleague – photo supplied

Australian Paddle Team’s dual Olympian Jessica Fox is also behind the team fundraiser after already fundraising over $3000 for the NSW RFS at the end of last year with handmade Christmas cards.

“It’s a devastating time in Australia and with my cards for charity over Christmas I thought it was a unique way to try do some fundraising. And while it took a lot of time to handprint over 200 cards it was a great cause and I enjoyed it and was so proud of my community for getting behind it and together we raised 3100$ for the RFS. Since then the fires have escalated and more lives, houses and wildlife have been lost and the paddle Australia community and even international paddlers can really come together to make a difference with this fundraiser,” Fox said.

Fox hand-delivered her donation cheque to the Glenbrook/Lapstone Rural Fire Brigade in December and training at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, which is located at the bottom of the Blue Mountains, Fox and other Australian Paddle Team athletes have been reminded on a daily basis of the fires with smoke a frequent occurrence over the last few weeks.

Jessica Fox handing over her December fundraiser cheque

“I fully support the initiative shown by our Athlete’s Commission in setting up this fundraiser. With fires still burning, the catastrophe is continuing to unfold with devastating effect. The compassion shown by our top athletes is indicative of the sense of community within paddling and I know that the fundraiser will be generously supported,” Paddle Australia President Andrea McQuitty said in support of the fundraising initiative.

Fundraising support is also coming from other parts of the paddling community with Paddle South Australia collecting food donations over the weekend at their Canoe Sprint State Championships for Foodbank South Australia and in support of the Kangaroo Island devastation.

Paddle Australia will also continue to support the local communities along the South Coast with the 2020 Ocean Racing Championships “The 2020 Makai Cup” to take place in Ulladulla and with a lot of paddlers already signed up to travel to the South Coast in the spirit of the #gowithemptyeskies campaign. Event website: http://www.makaipaddlers.com

Donations to the Paddle Australia Athlete Commission Bushfire Appeal can be made here: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

Any donation will help make an impact to those directly affected and who are fighting the Bushfires around our great country with donations 100% tax deductible.

Follow the @auspaddleteam on facebook and Instagram for further activities around this fundraiser: www.facebook.com/auspaddleteam and www.instagram.com/auspaddleteam

Further information about the fundraiser via GoFundMe: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

Paddle Australia’s Athlete Commission and the Australian Paddle Team are organising this fundraising appeal on behalf of Australian Red Cross.  Donations are 100% tax deductible.

Any donation will help make an impact to those directly affected and who are fighting the Bushfires around our great country.

More information about the Australian Red Cross: Your donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery helps our emergency teams to do their work – including the bushfires we’re currently seeing across NSW, Qld and SA, and disasters yet to come. It enables us to give people the support they need in disasters: whether that’s help to prepare, a safe place to take shelter, psychological first aid, information, and practical support through the months and even years it can take to recover. For more: https://bit.ly/332ZtBY