Myths VS Facts

Myth:

There are not enough countries with women canoeists competing internationally to justify Olympic inclusion.

Fact:

False.  The International Canoe Federation (ICF) has reported 50+ countries with women canoeists competing and developing at all levels, including Senior, U23 and Junior World Championships, World Cups, and the Continental level.  In 2015, 41 countries competed at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.  Women have only competed officially at the World Championships since 2010, and that year only one singles canoe event was included for both the Sprint (C1 200) and Slalom (C1) disciplines.  The C2 500 event was officially included for Sprint in 2011.

 

Myth:

There are not enough continents represented in women’s canoe events – i.e., there is not enough “universality”.

Fact:

False.  “Universality” is a key criterion for the IOC.  Looking at the chart below, note that of the 6 women’s events shown, half (50%) had 3-4 continents represented in the A Finals.  None of the men’s kayak events had more than 2 continents represented and most of those A Finals encompassed 80-90% European countries.  One of the men’s canoe events had 3 continents in the A Final.  Essentially, women’s events have more universality than men’s event, generally, and most of the men’s events had a majority of European countries in the A Finals.

 

Continents

Myth:

Women canoeists are being held to the same standards as male kayakers and canoeists and female kayakers to justify the position that women’s canoe is not “ready” for Olympic status.

Fact:

False.  Women canoeists are not being held to the same standards for inclusion.  Due to the lack of Olympic status for female canoeists and the fact that women’s canoe was included as official at the World level only since 2010, the starting point for performance comparisons to these classes is unequal, and thus makes common critiques weak.  For instance:

  • Male (M) kayakers/canoeists and female (F) kayakers have had Olympic racing opportunities in Sprint since 1936 and 1948, respectively (80 years and 68 years). In Slalom, these classes have been included since 1972, though Slalom was dropped for 20 years and reinstated in 1992. So, 24-44 years, depending on your starting point.  
  • Male kayakers and canoeists competed in the Olympics in 1936, 2 years BEFORE proving their quality (speed and time difference between first and last) or universality (number of continents) in a World Championships.
  • Men’s kayak and canoe and women’s kayak events were included in the 1938 World Championships, with women’s kayak having little to no prior international track record.

Olympic status means that these classes of athletes have had access to funding (to support training and livelihood) and professional coaching, medical expertise, etc. for 78 years.  In contrast, women who choose canoe are either steered to kayak because that is an Olympic path, or if they pursue canoe, are dependent upon family and working a job to support them while training.  Additionally, many do not have professional coaching or training groups, which limits training quality and quantity.  This equates to an uphill and lonely performance battle to meet ill-defined and seemingly moving performance targets. (see the 2nd myth above for other barriers women canoeists must overcome just to get to the starting line).

Note that a similar case can be said for disparities in development between canoe and kayak:  i.e., there have historically been more kayak events at the Olympic level, and kayakers have the 4 person kayak event whereas canoeists do not.  Therefore, overall, there are fewer athlete spots for canoeists. Athletes will generally aim for where there are more opportunities.

Myth:

Women's canoe events are simply not good enough to be showcased at the Olympic Games.

Fact:

False.  Women canoeists are ready for Olympic status now, and will be ready for Tokyo 2020.  Even without Olympic status, women canoeists’ performances are within the same performance outputs of male kayakers and canoeists and female kayakers, notably when you look at their performances when their events were first included in the Olympics and World Championships, or even in their early years.

Despite a mere 6 years at the World Championships level and only 2 events (as opposed to 8 for the other classes), the charts below show women’s canoe performance levels, measured in time differentials between first and last place in an A Final, and compares these to the current 12 Olympic Sprint  Program events.  It compares time differentials to the London 2012 Olympics, 2015 World Championships, first Olympics for inclusion, first World Championships for inclusion, and first year for good data from the World Championships (e.g., 1950).   The 2015 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships data are the most current for women’s canoe and are reflected in the last two columns in each chart.

Time Table

Note that women canoeists, when comparing their performances to the early years for the other classes (still with more years to develop), are out-performing the other classes.

Time Table

Myth:

“The proposed inclusion of Women’s Canoe Slalom [for Tokyo 2020]…will certainly please the recently crowned World Champion Jessica Fox (AUS), ……Likewise, double C1 Women 200m Sprint World Champion Laurence Vincent-Lapointe (CAN) will also be delighted by the prospect of Olympic competition.”

Fact:

False.  Both women are angry and so are women canoeists from 50+ countries around the world that they will once again be banned from competing in the next Olympic Games in Rio.

See full ICF press release here

Myth:

All paddlers are “canoeists”, since the word “canoe” is in the name of the sport – Olympic Canoeing – and the name of the international federation is the “International Canoe Federation”.

Fact:

False.  The term “canoeing” or “canoe” in ICF language refers to both canoe and kayak (and thus canoeists and kayakers, canoeing and kayaking).  These are two very distinct disciplines each requiring its own unique set of skills to master, usually over many years, and each attracts a different type of athlete.  See more on our Disciplines Page

The use of the terms canoe/canoeing/canoeists to refer to all Olympic paddlers is deceiving and causes significant confusion for the public and especially those in media.  It has been an unfortunate yet clever way to disguise the fact that women are still banned from competing in Olympic canoe events (single blade, Canadian canoe).  Currently, when one reads articles written by journalists referencing “Olympic Canoeing” or about a female “Olympic canoeist”, they are talking about female kayakers since kayaking is the Olympic discipline. See this example.  

Myth:

Unilateral development resulting from Olympic style canoeing, women’s bodies (e.g., reproductive or other internal organs) would be damaged, potentially causing infertility, stunting feminine development, or causing lopsided development.

Fact:

False.  This is a recurring myth for women throughout most sports in the Olympic movement, including Canoeing, and should not be tolerated.  The fact that women’s reproductive organs are safely tucked away inside of the body should be response enough.

The following statement was approved by the IOC Medical Commission, April 2011:  “No female athlete should be denied the opportunity to participate in any Olympic sport on the basis that she might sustain an injury to her reproductive organs. A survey of injury data has failed to find any evidence of an increased risk for acute or chronic damage to the female reproductive organs occurring as a direct result from participation in sport.”

The WomenCAN International Advisory Board was created to dispel the myth that canoeing will damage a woman's reproductive organs. We continue to work to get this permanently categorized as sexual harassment and not a medical issue, and promote accountability to prevent its use as a tool to deter and intimidate women away from canoeing.

See our Advisory Board page for more information and contact us if you need assistance.

Myth:

Women canoeists are being given opportunities and access to resources equal to all other paddlers.

Fact:

False.  Without Olympic status, women canoeists continue to experience inequalities and inequities.  For example, many national federations still do not include women’s canoe events at the national level and many only offer one or two women's canoe events. Women and girls have reported that their national federations do not support their entry into international competition.  They have also reported a) discriminatory selection procedures, including inequitable performance standards as compared to Olympic status athletes (e.g., % off Final A times in World competition), b) lack of information about opportunities, and, c) express frustration about being turned away from canoeing and steered to kayak because that is an Olympic (funded) path.

Many federations report that they are prevented from using funding for non-Olympic class athletes (i.e., women canoeists), and, too often they only have funding to send women canoeist to, maybe, one international competition. From our vantage point, while we are thankful for the 50+ who are currently sending athletes to international competition, far too many still refuse to send women canoeists to international competition or to critical development camps.

It is clear that without Olympic status, women canoeists are at a severe economic and training/development disadvantage, while the ICF and national federations expect them to exceed unknown though often unrealistic thresholds of performance.  Olympic status “professionalizes” sports.  It generates government funding to support Olympic class athlete development.  These athletes have access to funding (which means they do not have to work a job to support themselves or work while attending university), professional coaching; the best equipment; medical doctors; physical/massage therapists; sports psychologists, etc.  

Women canoeists are not competing on a level playing field and are not given equal or equitable opportunities and access to resources.

Myth:

The addition of women’s canoe events to the Olympic program will dilute the talent pool of female kayakers.

Fact:

False.  Canoes and kayaks and the associated paddles are different pieces of equipment, each requiring their own special set of skills to master.  This notion lacks understanding of the fundamental differences between canoe and kayak and why an athlete would choose one over the other (balance orientation, steering, usage of different muscle groups, etc.). It also suggests that kayak, which was introduced at Worlds and the Olympics at the same time as canoe, has a more ‘worthy’ talent pool to protect. when in fact it could be said that the reverse is true. Kayak could just as easily be diluting the pool of athletes who would eagerly choose canoe if there were equal opportunities for them to participate, race and advance. The presence of men’s canoe with kayak in the Olympic program (since the exhibition events in 1924) did not dilute the talent pool for men’s kayak.

Myth:

Women only recently started paddling canoes Canadian-style (Olympic "high-kneel").

Fact:

Canoe

False.  Paddling in canoes has been a method of transportation, a means of gathering food, recreational outlet, and a part of survival for women and their families for centuries.  Our Aboriginal, First Nation, Asian, African, Central/South American and Polynesian sisters and ancestors are great examples of this.  

We have documentation of women paddling canoes Canadian-style (i.e., “high kneel”) dating back to 1918 (Washington Canoe Club, Washington DC, USA) and even 1914 in War Canoes (Carleton Place Canoe Club, Ontario, Canada). The first documented Canadian Women’s War Canoe race was 1923. Currently, any of the four age categories of War Canoe at Canadian National Championships can have nearly 130 women competing for a high intensity, high kneel race and it has been this way for over half a century.

Canoe

Women have been paddling in slalom canoes in whitewater since at least the 1950’s. During the 1970’s and early 80’s, Slalom World Cups included the Mixed C2 event. 

 

Myth:

Women's Canoe does not belong in the Olympics.

Fact:

False.  According to the Olympic Charter, Fundamental Principles of Olympism are:

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play"

"The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

"Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC."

#OlympicCharter   #WomensCanoe   #1StepCloser   #Tokyo2020   #ForTheGirls