Angers-France-Raining-Women-in-Canoe sprint

After fighting for decades to be included in the Olympics as an official sport, women C-1 paddlers are one step closer to getting their wish. On Friday, Nov. 15, the International Canoe Federation Board of Directors voted to support the inclusion of C-1 women slalom and C-1 women 200 meter sprint in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and to guarantee complete gender equity across both the Olympic disciplines by the 2024 Olympic Games.

The ICF is the world governing body for international canoe and kayak racing. The International Olympic Committee has the final say in changes to the Olympic program, but typically follows the lead of lead of international federations such as the ICF, with one important caveat: The IOC rarely allows sports to add events or increase the number of athletes competing. That means the addition of women’s C-1 events will likely come at the cost of some men’s canoe and kayak events.

"This is exceptionally positive for our sport and clarifies our position to ensure equity at every level of competition," said José Perurena, ICF President and IOC Member.

This move has been a long time coming. With gender equity a top priority in the Olympic movement, Canadian canoeing bronze medalist Thomas Hall warned in August that canoeing risked being excluded from the Olympics altogether if the ICF did not step up to include women.

“Paddling, which includes both sprint and slalom, was shortlisted for loss of Olympic core-sport status by the International Olympic Committee,” said Hall in an essay he wrote for “Removal of core status means that a sport that was once guaranteed a spot in the Olympics now has to fight to be included in future events.”

That shortlist put to sharp focus the reality that the ICF needed to reevaluate its priorities, much as wrestling did after it got kicked off the Olympics altogether last February.  With a ton of work and major shifts in its 2020 proposed program, the ICF finally could stand behind a proposal paddlers could be proud of.

"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," said Perurena