This week the board of the International Canoe Federation found itself considering a set of options not of its own making, but incredibly important for the future of the sport globally.

While the options concerned the canoe program for the 2024 Olympic Games the final decision would undoubtedly have ramifications for the future of canoeing generally. We have always to consider the best interests of more than a dozen paddling sports.

We have already been told we will lose 12 quotas for Paris 2024. It is up to us to decide where those 12 quotas will come from, and we need to make those decisions with one eye on our future within the Olympic program.

It is no secret that the Olympic Games provides a large slice of the funding that allows us to support canoeing around the world. Without the Olympics, we would struggle to maintain the level of competition, development and support we currently provide.

It is also no secret that the Olympics are evolving. The IOC is determined to introduce new, innovative sports as it strives to attract younger audiences. It has been made clear to international federations that they need to embrace change, and to come up with new ways to attract fans.

To put it plainly, stagnate and you will die. There will be no future on the Olympic program for sports that can’t and won’t evolve. We have lost quotas for 2024, and we want to do what we can to make sure we are not targeted for future Games.

The IOC has also made clear it wants to get more value from Olympic venues, but does not want to add extra athlete quotas to the Olympic program.

So what approach have we taken to this? In recent years we have been promoting extreme canoe slalom, an exciting, head-to-head slalom format that has proved popular with athletes and fans and can provide access for athletes from other white water sports to compete for medals.

Importantly extreme slalom fits perfectly into the IOC’s wish list for future Games. We have a sport that is new, innovative, looks great on tv, and would extend the use of the Olympic slalom venue by at least two days.

Our plan was to put extreme slalom forward to the IOC and Paris 2024 organisers as an extra event requiring no extra athlete quotas. Every canoe slalom athlete would be eligible to compete in the extreme competition.

Unfortunately this plan suffered a setback this month when we were informed no extra medals would be made available at Paris 2024. This left us with the decision that confronted us this week – abandon the push for extreme slalom, or transfer two medals from sprint to the new sport.

The board has a responsibility to safeguard the future of all our canoeing disciplines. The fact is, being part of the Olympics is integral to our long-term survival. With that in mind, we have to do everything possible to prove our worth to the Olympic Games.

We currently have the privilege of having two disciplines on the Olympic program. We worked hard to get to this stage, and it provides us an outstanding opportunity to promote sprint and slalom to a global audience, and to consolidate our importance to the Olympic family.

If we can continue to show the Olympic movement we are the vibrant and innovative sport we all know we are, it will go a long way to locking canoeing on to future Olympic programs. We believe the introduction of extreme slalom will strongly support our cause.

This is not the first time we have had to make tough decisions, and it won’t be the last. But rather than take it as a setback, we should consider it as an opportunity. Innovation can and should be exciting.

Our sprint competitions have been experimenting with mixed K2 and C2, with 5000 metre races featuring portages, and with the exciting new Super Cup format. These should all be part of the discussion for potential future Olympic inclusion.

There is an old proverb that you should always cut your cloth to suit your coat. We have been presented with a set of guidelines by the Olympic movement, and it is up to us to decide how we respond.

We have taken a decision which we hope will be in the best long-term interests of canoeing, and we thank all of you for your understanding.

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Canoe Slalom
Extreme Canoe Slalom
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