Danielle McKenzie admits she was somewhat relieved when she read that the International Canoe Federation had cancelled its 2020 World Championships due to COVID-19.

Relief because the 2019 winner decided months ago that she “definitely” wasn’t going to defend her title either way.

“To be honest, I hadn’t really thought too much about it because I already had in my mind that it should be cancelled,” McKenzie admits.

“I felt there shouldn’t even have been an option for it to be on as we already knew so many countries weren’t going to be able to travel anyway.”

It’s not a decision the New Zealand breakout star takes any satisfaction in.

Instead, she views it as an inevitable conclusion.

“I don’t want to go if I can’t race the other top girls,” she says.

“I enjoyed the sport so much last year and that was largely because there were five to ten girls out there at each race who were so strong and pushed me all the way.

“You want to race against the very best.

“I think it would’ve devalued the event and taken away from its prestige, if it was to go ahead.”

The number of coronavirus cases in Portugal, the event’s host nation, has continued to climb over the past two months while surfski’s most influential nations, Australia and South Africa, will keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future.

The European Union is even considering banning United States visitors from entering the region due to its management of the pandemic – all factors that, together, made it impossible for the championships to go ahead.

“I want to race the best paddlers out there,” McKenzie says.

“If I’m not the best out there, then that’s fine by me, just as long as I could put in my best effort.

“You want to be racing the best people in the world – that’s what makes it the World Championships.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Two-time world champion Sean Rice had previously expressed his view that the event, scheduled for September, should not go ahead.

“I totally respect and appreciate their [the ICF’s] decision, and I think it’s the right one and the responsible one, but it’s still a bit sad,” he says.

“It’s sad for surfski.

“It was the sudden realisation that, ‘wow, there may be no racing in Europe this year.’”

In a statement, the International Canoe Federation cited health and safety concerns for athletes and officials as the reason for cancelling the 2020 World Championships.

It ended months of deliberation as to whether the event could proceed in some form.