SOUTH AFRICA WITHDRAWS OFFICIAL TEAM FROM WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
It had been holding out hope for months, but Canoeing South Africa has withdrawn its official team from next week’s ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Lanzarote.
Under Spain’s current travel restrictions, South Africans are unable to travel to the Canary Islands due to COVID-19 fears.
However, citizens can circumvent these laws by travelling on a dual passport – which is what seven South African paddlers will be doing in order to race.
The complex situation came to a head yesterday when Canoeing South Africa announced its decision to athletes, after waiting in hope that they would be provided with exemptions from the Spanish government to take its place at the event.
The local organizing committee of the World Championships has worked tirelessly to deliver on this, but at the time of publication, it hasn’t materialised.
“We as a Federation were wanting to send a team there,” Canoeing South Africa Secretary General Colin Simpkins told The Paddler.
“The organisers promised us they would have documentation from their health authorities that would allow us to circumvent the mandatory quarantine period, but the letters never arrived.”
The decision sparked fears that the seven South Africans making the trip, headlined by title contenders Nick Notten and Michelle Burn, would be denied ‘World Championship’ entry, along with any medals they may win.
However, Simpkins says that is not the case.
“The status of the team now isn’t a national team, in that those people over there won’t receive their national colours,” he explains.
“But they are representing South Africa and they will be eligible to receive any medals and prizes.
“It’s not their fault that the situation has arisen.
“Everybody knows that it’s going to be a watered-down event… but are those grounds for withdrawing that event for everybody?
“Look at almost everything going on in the world – we’re not operating in a normal situation at the moment… you take what you can get.”
It isn’t an unexpected outcome for the South African paddlers who only hold one passport – but it is a heartbreaking one.
Dawid Mocke was ecstatic to earn national team selection and the opportunity to race at an ICF Ocean Racing World Championships that comes with it.
As he explained to The Paddler at the time, it’s a dream that he’s yet to live out.
But, given that he’s still waiting for a VISA, it won’t be happening in 2021.
“I was really looking forward to going and having another crack at it.” Mocke says.
“Just looking at the conditions there, it looks like it’s going to be a really good downwind race, which would’ve played in my favour a bit more than some other locations.
“But it is what it is, there’s a lot of other athletes around the world in a similar position to me.
“In the bigger scheme of things, it’s not that important… but it is disappointing, nonetheless.”
Mocke has booked and paid for his flights, accommodation and entry fees.
In fact, his flight is due to leave in less than 24 hours’ time.
“I was just waiting for that mythical letter from the Spanish embassy… I have a few hours left, so I haven’t completely given up yet!”
Dawid Mocke was dreaming of competing at his first ever ICF Ocean Racing World Championships. PHOTOGRAPH: © Anthony Grote.
He’s waited in vain for his travel exemption, but Mocke has adopted a somewhat philosophical outlook.
“Uncertainty is something you learn to deal with as an athlete – especially in the ocean – so it’s not completely unfamiliar territory.” He says.
Above all else, buoyed by the fact that some of his countrymen and women are able to make the journey and ensure South Africa is represented on the start line.
“I’ve said right from the start that if it’s possible to go and keep the level as high as possible, then we owe it to the integrity of the title to go.” Mocke explains.
“The nature of competition is that you compete… and to compete, you need competitors.”
“I’m happy for them, completely happy for them.”