7 more years 2A proposal from the International Canoe Federation (ICF) to include two women’s canoe single events in the 2020 Olympics has left Australian Canoe Slalom World Champion Jessica Fox “unimpressed.”   She was angered by the November 15, 2013 ICF news release claiming its 2020 decision should “certainly please” her. The release included a photograph of Fox (in her kayak no less) with arms outstretched after a recent victory.

“As a C1 woman, to know it will be in the Olympics is great news, however as a high level athlete, ready for Rio, I am upset that you would assume that this will ‘certainly please’ me, because in fact, I am not celebrating with my arms outstretched,” said Fox.`”To be honest it’s a slap in the face and misleading.”

At face value, the proposal for 2 additional events may be dead on arrival if the IOC maintains its (arbitrary) athlete and event quotas (or caps on the number of athletes and events).  The ICF knows this.  If the IOC allows for more events while keeping athlete numbers the same, then there are opportunities to add more women’s canoe events, and even balance out the entire program, without removing any events.

It has been 12 days since the press release and the ICF has yet to communicate proposal details and a strategy for what they will do, when they will do it, or  how.  More confusing, the press release  does not appear on their website.

See quotes from the ICF in this article.

ICF Secretary General Simon Toulson and President Jose Perurena continue to contradict themselves.  In this article, Toulson relayed “common thoughts” among ICF members to Around the Rings (ATR):

“The ICF in 2012 said it would not change its 2016 program …To change now, in mid-Olympic cycle, would be unfair to those national federations and athletes that have already started preparing for the Games in Rio.”

 If making changes 3 years out is unfair….

  • Then why did the ICF further destroy Canoeing on the Olympic program in 2009 by eliminating one of the most exciting events in the program – the men’s C2 500, and replacing it with a women’s K1 200 for London 2012 – all in the name of gender equity?  We recognize the disparity in women’s kayak events as compared to men’s kayak (5 men’s events vs. 3 for women in 2008.  A 4th was added for 2012.  And women race only 500m, not 1000m), but why didn’t they remove a men’s kayak event to make room for another women’s kayak event?


  • The ICF angered the canoe/kayak community when they eliminated all of the 500m  events for men and made them 200m.  They claimed this was a way to spread the medals around (men were doubling in the 1000 and 500m events) and they wanted to be more media and young (no attention span) audience  friendly with the “fastest man/woman on the planet” events.  But this made one of the men’s K2 (doubles kayak) events a 200m race.  Team boat events are not meant to be a 30 second race;


  • Who made these decisions?  Sources indicate these were not fully vetted with the ICF membership.  Certainly not all stakeholders were involved.  We think lack of  transparency in decision-making is unfair;


  • Lastly – why did the ICF propose adding Women’s Slalom Canoe for 2016, 8-12 months ago?  (See their press release “ICF Clarifies Position on Women’s Canoe Category and Gender Equity”.) Because they submitted a proposal that they knew would be dead on arrival: an “above-quota” proposal which would exceed the IOC’s caps. The IOC only invited “quota-neutral” requests (if you add you must remove).  They apparently still invite quota neutral proposals.  Why play a mind-game with athletes?  That is unfair.


Contradictions abound.  In their November 2012 press release, the ICF stated:

“few National Federations are developing the Women’s Canoe category in the Canoe Sprint discipline”

yet their November 15, 2013 press release states:

“Women’s C1 in both Sprint and Slalom has improved dramatically over the last couple of years and the proposal to include it in the Olympic program will further support its future development.”

So a year ago there were “few” NFs developing women canoeists in the Sprint discipline and the ICF communicated this to the IOC and to the public to justify delaying Sprint, yet now, after being flooded with facts and actually paying attention, they see that for the last couple of years women’s canoe has improved dramatically?  If both Sprint and Slalom have improved so dramatically and are quite ready now, why wait 7 more years?  In a stroke of your pen, you have told these “ready athletes” to move on with their lives.

Simon Toulson told ATR that the ICF discussed the 2020 proposal with coaches, ICF committees that oversee Canoe Sprint and Slalom, and members of the IOC.

“The findings of this meeting really helped us determine the direction and timing.”

Were these the same kind of secret meetings the ICF had at the 2012 ICF Congress and in 2009?  Only select people were invited to these meetings. Where is the transparency?  And who is involved?   All true stakeholders?   This does not appear to be the case. Toulson’s statement means the ICF only listened to people who support their proposal. IOC members, National Federations, coaches and other officials we have spoken to are either confused about our Sport because it is all “Canoeing” and everyone is called a “Canoeist”, or they say there is no justifiable reason for continued delay and wonder how much longer the ICF can hold out.

ICF:  Women’s Canoe is Ready for Rio.

In 2010, the ICF announced a Women’s Sprint and Slalom Canoe event would be added to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.  While great news at face value – what data justified that hasty decision?  The youth of the world were ready for a Youth Olympic Games 4 years prior to 2014, yet 3 years out from Rio, Women’s Canoe is undeniably ready, yet you are forcing athletes to wait another 7 years?   This makes no sense.

It has been 12 days since the ICF 2020 press release, yet they have communicated nothing on exactly what they will propose to the IOC and when, and how they will implement their proposal.   And part of this strategy must state how they will preserve Canoeing on the Olympic program (single blade).  This is missing from this discussion. A guarantee of gender equality by 2024 could mean further destruction of Canoeing overall.  Currently there are 9 sprint kayak events to 3 sprint canoe events.  Before 2012, there were 8 sprint kayak events and 4 sprint canoe events.  Some say there is not a deliberate strategy to suppress Canoeing on the Olympic program.  However, the fact that there has never been an Olympic C4 event, complementary to the K4 event, and the hotly contested/very media friendly C2 event was eliminated, this seems to be an effective strategy to suppress Canoeing, or just make it go away.  They are starving Canoeing with these imbalances and continued delays – yet they hold workshops to ask “How can we get more people interested in Canoeing?  Are the boats too tippy?”

It’s not about the boat, ICF.  It is about you and your lack of courage to make the hard decisions to preserve our entire Sport on the Olympic program.

The ICF stated they will:

“guarantee complete gender equity across both canoe sprint and canoe slalom by the 2024 Olympic Games.”

Did they forget they have a Gender Equity Charter on their website?  See link here

“By 2016 the ICF will: Increase Olympic Canoe Sprint and Slalom events for women.”   “By 2020 Provide equal number of events at Olympic Games for men and women (“50/50 by 2020”).

But still, what does this mean?  What does this mean for canoe and kayak in general?  And where is the strategy to provide equal opportunities at ALL levels of the sport?   There are still only 2 events for women sprint canoeists at the world level, compared to 9 for the men, and for all kayakers.  And most national federations are following this 2, or even 1 event format at their national level events.  This is not promoting development for Canoeing, and certainly not for women.

12 days after their press release, and it is no longer on their website.   Have they retracted?

The ICF must be more transparent in how it discusses and makes decisions. And, it must communicate their strategy quickly to achieve balance between the genders AND the disciplines.  Did they forget our Sport was in the IOC’s “Bottom 5” in February?

7 more years is unacceptable.  And even 2020 is uncertain because this is just the ICF saying it will send a proposal to the IOC.  The IOC must still review and accept it and that announcement may not come for several years.  What does that do for this current generation of athletes?  Far too many women canoeists receive little to no support as it is and many are still prevented from competing by their national federations.  This current generation of paddlers will most likely be gone.  The economic hardship, gross disparity in opportunity and discriminatory practices are just too great.

By allowing “No changes for Rio 2016”, the IOC will continue to violate its own Charter.  The IOC is also allowing the ICF  to continue to violate the Olympic Charter and the ICF Statutes. Further delay in Olympic status and continued discrimination at the world and national levels is not in alignment with Olympic values.   89 years and counting.

Where is the accountability and transparency?  Secret meetings and no meeting minutes is not transparency nor accountability to your membership or stakeholders.   Is this 2016 “no changes” program “Always Moving Forward”?

  • 16 events/330 athletes – quota/caps
  • 5 Canoe events for men, 0 for women – a streak going strong 89 years
  • 11 total canoe/kayak events for men, 5 for women
  • Twice as many male athletes as female athletes
  • Twice as many Gold medals for men than for women
  • Women race 1/2 the distance of the men.