By Kieran Heffernan
Although canoeists and kayakers from across the country did not gather at the Rideau Canoe Club for the Canadian championships as originally planned, the club has been awarded hosting duties for the 2021 event.
Next year’s nationals will take place on Aug. 24 to 29, almost exactly one year after the 2020 competition was scheduled to take place. Normally, the championship location operates on a rotation between Western Ontario, Quebec, Prairie/Pacific, Eastern Ontario, and the Atlantic provinces, but this rule was modified to allow Rideau to host.
“There was a lot of work done by Canoe Kayak Canada and by clubs across the country to make this happen, so we’re obviously extremely appreciative of the fact that clubs across the country were supportive of Rideau being able to host again in 2021,” said Scott Bradley, co-chair of the 2021 nationals.
He said that like everybody in the sport, the club is disappointed about the cancellation for 2020, but they also “recognize that it’s extraordinary times and we have to make adjustments as everyone else has.”
Although rowers in Ontario are not allowed to train in crew boats, unlike other places such as Atlantic Canada, Bradley said Rideau’s athletes are fortunate that they have been able to resume training at all. No one knows what the situation will be like next year, but Bradley said he’s hopeful that the club will still be able to host a good event.
“We will be moving forward with as many options as possible to ensure that the event next year is a success,” he said.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that one of Rideau’s major events has been cancelled. In 2018, the Sprint East Canada Cup had to be partially called off due to extreme heat. However, according to Bradley, the club isn’t letting its bad luck get it down. Instead, he said he sees the cancellations as a testament to the club’s commitment to safety.
“Paramount to everything is just that at no point would we ever jeopardize the safety of our athletes or officials or anyone,” he said. These same principles apply to the planning of the 2021 championships, he added, although a pandemic is vastly difference situation than a couple of days of hot weather.
Bradley isn’t too worried about any financial consequences of the 2020 cancellation either.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to put on a great event for our athletes. We’re not running the national championships as a huge revenue generator,” he said. “You’re running the national championships to be the host club for an almost 120-year-old sporting event.”
The 2021 championships will be particularly exciting for the club, as all of Canada’s Olympic athletes are expected to compete at the event. Rideau has a few Olympic hopefuls of their own: Madeline Schmidt, a kayaker who was sixth in her final at the 2019 Canoe Sprint World Championships; Natalie Davison, who clinched Canada’s spot in Tokyo in the K4 500m; and Rowan Hardy-Kavanagh, who won three medals at the 2018 Pan American Championships, are several.
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According to Bradley, the club is now in the process of reconnecting with sponsors in anticipation of next summer.
“Our next step now is to work with the community in organizing a great event, going back to our community sponsors and starting to build up that support as well, from both national businesses and local businesses that will be hopefully supporting the event next year.”