2020 Olympic Dreams are Made at 2000 Olympic Legacy Venue
20 years after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Penrith Whitewater Stadium will once again see Olympic dreams in the making with the 2020 Sydney International Whitewater Festival this weekend the decider for Australia’s two last remaining canoe slalom spots for Tokyo 2020 in the men’s C1 and men’s K1 (21-23 February 2020).
Tasmanian Daniel Watkins as well as Rio Olympian Lucien Delfour (NSW) are in the lead going into the final selection round after winning the men’s C1 and K1 at the Oceania Championships respectively in Auckland at the start of February, but with another two races to count for selection this weekend, it really is anyone’s game.
In the men’s C1, Watkins will be chased by Rio Olympian Ian Borrows (NSW), who finished third at the Oceania Championships with Oceania Champs finalists Steven Lowther (WA), Ethan Hodson (NSW), Tristan Carter (VIC) and Brodie Crawford (WA) also at his heels.
In the men’s K1, Delfour put in an impressive fast time at Oceania Champs and will be aiming to repeat this on his home course to secure his Tokyo 2020 ticket. Western Australian Ben Pope, who finished fourth at the Oceania Champs in Auckland will be pushing him, as will Oceania finalists Tristan Carter and Daniel Watkins, who are doubling up in both the C1 and K1.
The final round of canoe slalom national selection trials will confirm, who will be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection for Tokyo 2020 next week, plus will decide the 2020 Paddle Australia canoe slalom teams, including World Cup, U23 and Junior teams and Olympic reserves. Teams are expected to be announced at the end of February.
Making the top ten finals will be a tough challenge at the 2020 Sydney International Whitewater Festival with the world’s best canoe slalom paddlers from 23 countries making it an Olympic-calibre event.
Exactly five months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 2000 Olympic venue will be presenting a competition of Olympic class and dimensions with a stellar international line-up of Olympic champions and medallist at the start line, including Australia’s most successful individual canoe slalom paddler of all time and dual Olympic medallist Jessica Fox (NSW).
Fox spearheads an impressive line-up of Olympic medallists including amongst others Olympic bronze medallist Jiří Prskavec (CZE) who is also the reigning men’s kayak world champion, Olympic silver medallist and two times world champion in the men’s kayak Peter Kauzer (SLO), Olympic women’s K1 silver medallist Luuka Jones (NZL) as well as Germany’s London 2012 K1 Olympic bronze medallist Hannes Aigner (GER) and Japan’s Takuya Haneda, who won bronze at Rio 2016 in the C1 men’s category.
Also at the start line will be amongst others 2019 World Champion in the men’s C1 Cedric Joly (FRA), silver medallist Ander Elosegi (ESP), men’s K1 2019 World Championship silver and bronze medallists David Llorente (ESP) and Joan Crespo (ESP) as well as world ranked number 2 in C1 men Alexander Slafkowsky from Slovakia.
In the women’s events, 2019 K1 and C1 world cup winner and world championships silver medallist Jessica Fox will have the chance for a rematch with Germany’s 2019 C1 world champion Andrea Herzog in the C1 as well as with Rio Olympic silver medallist and 2019 world championships bronze medallist in the K1 Luuka Jones from New Zealand. Germany’s world ranked number 2 Ricarda Funk as well as 2019 women’s kayak European Champion Amy Hilgertova from the Czech Republic are also vying for the top spots.
“Thank you to Penrith City Council, Paddle Australia and Sport Australia and all the volunteers, staff and officials, who will be out there helping us run an awesome event and thank you to all the athletes for coming out here year after year to Penrith. I was six when the Olympics were on in 2000 and I remember seeing some phenomenal Czech, Slovak, French, German athletes on the top of that podium and many of them are here now carrying on their legacy and it’s great to see some new athletes and new countries in the mix as well. Good luck to everyone and see you on the start line,” Jessica Fox said, who has already been selected to represent Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in both the women's K1 and C1.
Every year, the 2000 Olympic venue hosts the first International Canoe Federation (ICF) world-ranking event of the season with the best international slalom paddlers making the most of Australia’s summer and the world-class facilities at Penrith Whitewater Stadium in their preparation for the Euro-centric World Cup season and Olympic Games.
This underlines the long Olympic tradition of the venue with past Olympic champions and medallists continuing to support the venue and event. Many of them are back in Penrith this week to once again support this year’s 2020 Sydney International Whitewater Festival either as team managers, coaches or competitors and Paddle Australia together with the Mayor of Penrith Cr Ross Fowler OAM recognised them for their ongoing support earlier this week.
Amongst the Olympians recognised were Italy’s 1992 K1 Olympic Champion Pierpaolo Ferrazzi, who was also a bronze medallist in Penrith at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Athens men’s K1 Olympic champion Benoit Peschier from France, Elena Kaliska from Slovakia who won the women’s kayak at both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 as well as London 2012 K1 Olympic Champion Daniele Molmenti from Italy.
Securing canoe slalom for the Olympic Games 2000 took an international effort and set the foundation for ongoing world-class canoe slalom events in Penrith up to this day.
“20 years ago this venue hosted the Olympic competition in 2000 and to achieve that it took a lot of work from a lot of people. Canoe Slalom wasn’t on the initial program and there was a lot of work done by the ICF, Penrith City Council, Ross (mayor) and his team, Richard Fox and others to ensure that it was reinstated in 2000 and the competition went ahead,” Paddle Australia CEO Phil Jones recognised the work done to bring canoe slalom to the 2000 Games and to Penrith.
“Had it not been for that work in 2000, life could have been very different for everyone in canoe slalom. That work made a big difference to canoeing internationally and we would like to acknowledge the people who did the work back then who made sure that we are still here. So, to Ross and his team, Richard (Fox), thank you,” Phil Jones added.
With new funding secured last year, plans are currently in the making to secure the Olympic legacy of the Penrith Venue and create a new exciting future for Sydney’s iconic sporting venue.
“2020 is a bit of a moment in time for us with this venue which has served sport well for 20 years in need for some investment and we are pleased that the federal government before the last election committed some funding to do some work here. We are now working with Ross, with the state and federal government and other agencies to try and try to look at a master plan to move the stadium forward, which will once again be of benefit to the local economy as well as paddling internationally,” Phil Jones explained.
With new plans on the horizon, Olympic canoeing’s future is looking bright with the weekend to showcase the world’s best and the excitement of canoe slalom.
Entry to all days of the competition is free for spectators with the canoe slalom competition to start at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, 21 February with heats. Semi-finals and finals in the men’s C1 and women’s K1 are scheduled for Saturday, before Sunday will see the women’s C1, mixed C2 and men’s K1 semi-finals and finals.
The 2020 Sydney International Whitewater Festival will be the largest international whitewater event in the Asia Pacific this year celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Sydney 2020 Olympic Games. The event will also include the 2020 Paddle Australia Freestyle Championships.
A great selection of Australia’s and the world’s best whitewater paddlers will contest the 2020 Paddle Australia Freestyle Championships with the freestyle events spearheaded by three-time world cup champion and Guinness World record holder Jez Jezz (NSW) as well as Australia’s first ever Junior world championships medallist Jack Newland (VIC). Japan’s World Cup Champion Suematso Yoshiko will also be contesting the event and will be up against Great Britain’s eight-time world champion Clare O’Hara.
The freestyle competition will start Saturday afternoon, 22 February with heats and with finals to follow on Sunday in between the canoe slalom semi-finals and finals.