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Women Canoeists included in U.S. Olympic Trials – but cannot compete in Olympics
April 7th, 2012NewsWomenCAN Intl 1 Comments

Please see this letter from a Concerned Paddling Enthusiast:


Dear Sports Fans:

The U.S. Olympic Trials for whitewater slalom kayak and canoe will be held at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 11-14, 2012. The results of this competition will determine which athletes go on to represent the U.S.A. at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.    One problem: women canoeists are not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, simply because they have been historically excluded from participation.   The women kayakers and canoeists will all earn medals at these Olympic Trials, but only the kayakers will actually be able to turn those medals and qualification into a trip to the Olympics.   For the women canoeists it’s really the  “Olympic Tribulations”.   They do the work, spend their own hard earned money to train and travel,  but all they get for it is a little medal, and a trip back home.


trib·u·la·tion   [trib-yuh-ley-shuhn]
grievous trouble; severe trial or suffering
1. affliction, hardship, distress, adversity.

Women canoeists have not been allowed at the Olympic level in either sprint or slalom, since canoeing was added to the Olympic program in 1936.   This is a similar situation to the women ski jumpers and women boxers.  However, in 2010 the women’s ski jumpers sued to be included in Olympic competition, and ultimately won the war.  They will make their Olympic debut in the 2014 Winter Games.  Women Boxers make their debut in 2012 in London.

What about women canoeists?

For decades, women were told that they couldn’t compete in Olympic level canoeing because they were not good enough, there were not enough paddlers, and they might “damage their reproductive organs.”   However, this latter myth was officially dispelled in 2011 by the IOC Medical Commission:   “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”.  See:

Further proof comes from the history of the canoe itself – one of the most ancient, indigenous water crafts.   It is the watercraft that allowed Sacajaweja to guide Captains Lewis and Clark across the country, and she had a daughter several years after that expedition!   The canoe also carried the Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands. If there ever was an event to mandate full inclusion for women, it is Canoeing.

The Olympic Charter states that the practice of sport is a human right. However, when it comes to paddling a single blade (canoe paddle), apparently only men are considered “human”.  There will be women who will compete at the Slalom (whitewater) Olympic Trials in Charlotte, and three of them will earn a spot on the podium, however, unlike other sports where that podium also serves as the steps to their Olympic Dream, the women canoeists won’t be stepping anywhere except off the podium,  because in 2012 they will not be allowed to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games.   Their male counterparts in single and double canoe will go on to fulfill their dreams of Olympic competition, as will the women kayakers, but the women canoeists will stay home.

As a society, we would never tolerate exclusion from athletic participation based on race or religious belief, so how is it that we are not outraged by this blatant gender discrimination?  It is incumbent upon all of us to pursue and stand for nothing less than equality in sport.  How else will women under the burka ever be allowed to participate?   If we can even the playing field, perhaps the women of Saudi Arabia can participate in Olympic sports in the future.

In light of recent newsworthy events, such as Rush Limbaugh calling a young woman law student a “whore” and Christine Brennan’s USA Today headline article regarding the exclusion of women as members at Augusta National Golf Club, it is time to also address blatant gender discrimination with respect to Canoeing in the Olympics.  The pendulum has swung away from gender equality.   Please consider this topic worthy of your reporting.  The Olympic Trials are only 6 days away, but this story will continue.

See: for more information regarding the pursuit of Olympic Status for women canoeists in both slalom (whitewater) and sprint (flat water) canoeing. Let’s make this the last Olympic Tribulation for women’s canoeing….we have had enough adversity, and the door to the Olympics being closed.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for more information, including high resolution photographs of the 2008 Olympic Trials and women who were excluded from 2008 Olympic participation and the names of the athletes who intend to compete in the 2012 women’s canoe at the Trials. These brave women include paddlers from North Carolina, Colorado, Alabama, Wisconsin and beyond.


Jean Buckley, Esq


'One Response to “Women Canoeists included in U.S. Olympic Trials – but cannot compete in Olympics”'
  1. WomenCAN Intl says:

    The U.S. is one of only a few countries to include women’s canoe at its Canoe/Kayak Slalom Olympic Trials, which is the selection race the 2012 London Olympic Games for Olympic events, and for Slalom World Cup events. Kudos for the inclusion, but it’s only a baby step when it’s time for a leap. The U.S. did not send any female canoeists to the recent Canoe Slalom Pan American Championships in Brazil, nor was it promoted as an opportunity for female canoeists. This is the same situation in Sprint Canoe: no entries for the Canoe Sprint Pan American Championships in Rio (April 20-22), nor was it communicated as an opportunity, and no entries for the first ever ICF Women’s Cup – a Sprint Development Camp and Regatta July 14-28 in Boulogne, France. This is a sponsored camp and regatta by the ICF and local organizing committee. The U.S. pushed for women’s canoe events to be added to the international program, but they do not send female canoeists to the very international ICF events for which they pushed so hard. Why are they sending mixed messages?

    The lack of participation and mixed messages have not only hurt athletes and their development, but has also been a sore spot in USA Canoe/Kayak’s international relations efforts. This is low hanging, ripe fruit. The U.S. will be left behind if it does not alter its current course.

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