World junior canoe slalom champs in Auckland cancelled
New Zealand’s best young canoe slalom talent will have to wait a little longer to host the best in the world, with organisers confirming next year's ICF junior and under-23 canoe slalom world championships has been cancelled.
The week-long event was due to be held at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Manukau in April next year but the global Covid-19 pandemic has changed the entire sporting landscape.
Canoe Slalom New Zealand chairman Kerry Bloor explained that there is too much uncertainty over the next nine months to allow organisers to confidently plan.
"It's obvious that we've got a long road in front of us and our international borders may not be open again for quite some time," Bloor said.
"While New Zealand's Covid-19 efforts mean competitors would be safer here than nearly anywhere else in the world, there are likely to still be considerable obstacles in actually getting here, taking into account our border access and increased travel costs. We don't want to host anything other than a fully-fledged world championship, where entry is open and accessible to all, so to preserve the prestige of the event, this was the only option."
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), on behalf of Auckland Council, is a partner of the event.
ATEED Head of Major Events Richard Clarke says while his organisation was sure the decision to cancel the event wasn’t taken lightly, the current global situation has left organisers with very little choice.
“We recognise the disappointment that comes with the cancellation of any event but we will be working alongside the event organisers on any potential opportunities in the future,” Clarke said.
A number of European-based athletes were considering training camps in New Zealand over summer, taking advantage of New Zealand's outstanding natural river venues, such as the Tarawera River in Kawerau, the Kaituna River near Rotorua, the Mangahao River near Shannon and the pristine Tekapo Whitewater Course in Canterbury. Quarantine measures and flight availability are likely to curtail those plans, however.
The postponement of this year's Olympics in Tokyo has also compressed the 2021 calendar considerably, ruling postponement out. Organisers would've had to fit a rescheduled junior worlds between European Olympic qualifiers, the Olympics themselves and the senior world championships.
This year's under-23 and junior world championships in Slovenia has already been cancelled, along with a number of other international canoe and kayak events, with ICF President Jose Perurena reiterating that the health and safety of athletes and officials remains the number one priority.
"While obviously we are disappointed that the 2021 ICF under-23 and junior canoe slalom world championships in Auckland have had to be cancelled, we completely understand and sympathise with our friends at Canoe Slalom New Zealand," Perurena said. "This is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, and a lot of very hard decisions are having to be made. We are confident that when this terrible pandemic is behind us, we will once again get the opportunity to work with tremendous hosts like New Zealand to stage the best events possible."
And while the ICF calendar has been set in place until 2024, Bloor hopes New Zealand's ambition to become just the second Southern Hemisphere host of the event - after Penrith in 2014 - will still be realised.