“PRETTY UNLIKELY”: PADDLE AUSTRALIA CASTS DOUBT OVER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
While the International Canoe Federation is doing all it can to ensure the 2020 World Championships can go ahead, for Paddle Australia, the decision already appears to be made.
“From all of the medical advice we’re getting, including the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Institute of Sport, we unfortunately can’t send a team at this stage,” Paddle Australia CEO Phil Jones told The Paddler.
“Our preference, and we’ve expressed this to the ICF generally, is that we’d rather have decisions made early.”
“And if there’s doubt, we should cancel.”
It’s a declaration that will heap pressure on the ICF to decide whether the event, planned to run in Portugal in early September, will go ahead amid COVID-19.
Australia, along with South Africa, are the heavyweights of surfski paddling.
There’s a consensus among athletes and team officials that if either nation signals its intention to withdraw from the event, the World Championships will not go ahead.
In an update to members yesterday after receiving news that the country’s elite paddlers will soon be able to return to training, Canoe South Africa noted that it will be “engaging with the necessary Government Departments to seek permission for our athletes to travel” to Portugal for the event.
While Paddle Australia has stopped short of announcing any withdrawal, it is flexing its muscle.
“Personally I think the end of June is the latest they can make that decision, given the plans that need to be put in place to get there,” Jones says.
That’s also the revised deadline the ICF has set for itself.
Last month, it’s Ocean Racing Committee agreed that athletes must be given at least eight weeks notice that the event is going ahead, given the training and logistical requirements.
It also tabled a radical proposal to move the World Championships to another country if Portuguese authorities don’t allow it to run.
If that transpires, Paddle Australia will not be putting itself forward to host it.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s practical,” Jones says.
“Moving it would be challenging because what parts of the world will we be able to get into?
“When you listen to Tennis Australia and where their plans sit for the Australian Open in January, even they’re in doubt for getting players in.
“The biggest danger is obviously international travel and the opening up of our borders. As we sit here today, we don’t even have all of the state borders open.
“The uncertainty and the challenges would be a step too far.”
Rather than wait to hear an outcome at the end of the month like everyone else, Paddle Australia says it’s likely to communicate its opinion to the ICF before the Ocean Racing Committee next meets on June 23.
“We do have an input and I think, sadly, it’s pretty unlikely that the event can go ahead,” he said.
“There’s the question of does the sport want to run a World Championships that not all athletes can get to?
“That’s going to be the reality for another nine to 12 months, realistically.”