Women in Canoe is Nothing New
Photo of 1977 C2 (doubles canoe) MIXED World Champions – Marietta Gilman and Chuck Lyda (USA).

We are working hard to dispel the myth that women just starting paddling canoes (single blade).  Women have paddled canoes for centuries (see our Myths/Facts page) but due to the lack of access to competitive events and development at any level, the world has been slow to see women’s power and grace in these beautiful canoes. The C2 MIXED (gender) event debuted on the #ICFSlalom World Championships program in 1955.   The first C2 MIXED World Champions were Dana Martanová and Jiří Pecka, from Czechoslovakia.  See the full list of C2 MIXED World Champions here.   The C2 MIXED event was discontinued after the 1981 World Championships.   

Brief History of Slalom Canoe/Kayak – Olympics and World Championships

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) implemented the first Slalom Canoe (Canoe/Kayak) World Championships in 1949. Men’s and Women’s Kayak and Men’s Canoe Slalom events were on the Program, however, no Women’s Canoe events, despite the fact we know women wanted to canoe, just like their male friends.    (See list of events here).  Slalom Canoe/Kayak made its Olympic debut in the 1972 Olympics in Augsburg, Germany. (Sprint Canoe/Kayak debuted in 1936). Men’s and Women’s Kayak and Men’s Canoe Slalom events were on the Program, yet no Women’s Canoe events.   

After this 1972 debut, the Discipline was removed from the Olympic program, which meant all of the Slalom athlete quota spots disappeared, too (485 spots down to 350).  The discipline was reinstated in 1992, after a long lobbying effort; however, women’s canoe was still not even on the table for consideration for inclusion.  Additionally, the fact that the International “Canoe” Federation called (and continues to call) everyone a “canoeist”, they were able to hide the fact that there were no true women canoeists.  They showed pictures of women in the sport – yet all were kayakers: athletes sitting in their kayaks using a double blade vs. kneeling paddlers using a single blade).  While the Slalom program (and Sprint) was still severely gender imbalanced, the IOC never demanded inclusion for women’s canoe. Could it be because they did not know?   This was a slap in the face given that, in 1992, the IOC demanded that all new Olympic sports must be gender equal.  A significant oversight by the IOC was to not grandfather in legacy sports and demand gender equality from them, too.  This let the ICF continue to discriminate and violate the Olympic Charter’s very clear edict for non-discrimination.  

When the IOC reinstated the Slalom discipline in 1992, the ICF did not get the 135 slalom athlete spots back.  Instead, the ICF had to absorb the athlete spots in the new quota after the 1972 Olympics. This meant reducing the number of Sprint athletes to stay within the caps.
(read more on ICF Olympic quotas here).

Fast-forward to 2017: the ICF is including C2 MIXED once again on the World Slalom Canoe Championships Program.  Why not Women’s C2 as well?   Women can paddle quite well by themselves in canoes.  We know women paddle doubles canoe and love it just as much as the men.  Will it stay?  Considering the current trend in Olympic events for Tokyo 2020, we hope so.  At least Women’s C1 (singles canoe) will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020!  Athletes are thrilled and opportunities for funding, coaching, training, racing, etc., will expand.  The same “environment for success” as the men have enjoyed, and the kayakers, is now open for women and girls.  https://www.womencanintl.com/

Slowly we make progress.  But it IS 2017.

#RoadtoTokyo #Tokyo2020 #GenderEquality #CanoeSport #PlanetCanoe