2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first-ever Women’s Canoe Exhibition events at an ICF World Championships: The 2003 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships – held in Gainesville, GA.
These history events were made possible because of 5 years of non-stop lobbying and globetrotting on the part of Women’s Canoe pioneer Canadian Sheila Kuyper and her steady counterpart Heather McNie (of McNie Paddling Gear). Sheila was the force behind the push for women’s canoe events added to the Canadian Sprint National Championships in 1994 (and was their first Women’s Canoe National
Champion) and she spearheaded the 1998 campaign for Olympic inclusion for Women’s Canoe working with the Toronto Local Organizing Committee in their bid for the 2008 Olympics (see the “Power and Grace for 2008” poster).
Toronto lost that bid to Bejing, but the Women’s Canoe Campaign for Olympic Inclusion was born.
Official conversations about the inclusion of Women’s Canoe at the 2003 Worlds occurred at the 2002 ICF Congress, which took place in Sevilla, Spain immediately following the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships. As you can see from the attached trip report by Heather McNie, Sheila Kuyper, Heather and U.S. National Champion Pam Boteler were there all weekend lobbying and promoting Women’s Canoe.
The local organization in 2003 was the Lanier Canoe/Kayak Club – host for the 1996 Olympic Canoe/Kayak and Rowing events. They had long-standing support for inclusion of women’s canoe in major events they hosted: e.g., the 2001 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup #1 – the first ICF World Cup to include women’s canoe as exhibition and the 2002 USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships, which were the first-ever U.S. Nationals to include women’s canoe events on the program – in all possible categories. They pulled out all the stops in 2003 to ensure the Women’s Canoe Exhibition events were run with the same professional rigor as the rest of the regatta. All of the officials and volunteers were outstanding.
Another little known fact: current Russian Champion Maria Kasakova made
her debut on the world Canoe scene at this event – at the ripe age of 16! She competed with teammates from the Russian Indian Biathlon Federation (Canoe and Archery).
2003 World Championships Women’s Canoe Exhibition Events offered:
C1 & C2 1000
C1 & C2 500
Countries represented: Canada, USA, Russia. Brazil women canoeists (including Luciana Costa and Camila Lima) were set to participate, but they could not get VISAs in time. But they were there with us in spirit.
Canada dominated the events but they (the paddlers and CanoeKayak Canada) demonstrated once again they were intent on being a leader in this movement and opened their doors to international paddlers to train, develop and race.
The International Canoe Federation (ICF) was so impressed with the events and caliber of the women that the ICF President, Mr. Ulrich Feldhoff, awarded medals to the female canoeists. Before the event, there was no plan to award medals for exhibition events.
The Campaign for Olympic Inclusion is still alive today and we continue to work for the inclusion of Women’s Sprint and Slalom Canoe events in the Rio 2016 program and we continue to lobby for more women’s canoe events at the World Championships. In Sprint, women canoeists only have 2 out of a possible 9. In Slalom, women canoeists have 2 out of 3.
We thank you for your continued support. Please continue to share and sign our petition.
Women’s Canoe – READY FOR RIO!