The most vocal of the women pushing for inclusion in the Olympic Games, American canoeist Pam Boteler, left, says the sport is simply extraordinary.
For many of us, the words ‘canoe’ and ‘kayak’ are used interchangeably, so what’s the difference between canoeing and kayaking?
Canoe evolved from the Native American nations in the US and Canada. You kneel on one knee in the boat, it’s a powerful position. You have a longer blade (than in Kayaking) and it’s a single-blade. There is more power and a grace to it because of being in a superior kneeing position instead of sitting.
It is more extraordinary than being in a kayak.This is a very exciting event to watch – in Canada there is an event with war-canoes, they play the traditional music during the race.
Typically the Europeans dominate the sport, Canada are also very strong. China won the team event in 2004 and 2008. There were 22 countries at the last (women’s) World Championships, and 36 countries that have women training.
*Pam Boteler asked me to add this in here:
The primary distinction is the paddle: canoeing uses a single blade and kayakers use a double blade. The paddling style in this Olympic discipline requires the paddler to be kneeling on one knee (similar to the position of one being “knighted”) in flatwater/sprint or kneeling on both knees inside the boat in whitewater/slalom. The actual paddling motion to propel the boat is only done on one side in canoeing because of the single blade, though in slalom, they may “cross over” the paddle from one side to the other to maneuver the course.
Kayakers us a double blade (a blade on both ends of the shaft) always sit, and always take strokes on both sides of the boat. Kayakers in sprint have rudders to go straight, whereas canoeists have no rudder and must steer with the single blade. This makes canoeing even more difficult a discipline to master. In my opinion, Olympic style – kneeling – has more power, grace and beauty because of being in a superior kneeling position.
That all sounds very positive, so why have you set up WomenCan International?
Women kayakers can compete at the Olympics but female canoeists are barred.
If a girl wants to do canoe, her coach will say there is nothing ahead of you, you have to be a kayaker. And who wants to be alone at 13? If you want to do it, you have to believe you will be part of paving the way for the future.
There are 16 canoe-kayak events on the Olympic programme and the IOC tells us they are not going to give our sport anymore medals. But they keep adding other sports.
We want equality with the men’s events. But we are seeing men’s kayaking events being taken away to make room for women’s kayak and that is causing resentment among the men.
WomenCAN International tries to support women canoeists, it’s me really and private donations. We typically don’t have a lot of money but even 500 dollars can go a long way.
What’s the argument against adding women’s canoe to the Olympic programme?
The argument is that women’s kayak is there … but that is a sitting sports and we kneel, it’s not the same. There are five men’s canoe events as well as men’s kayak.
The IOC has made decisions to exclude women and to favour kayak events.
So what do women canoeists want?
We want equality, we want the same number of events as the men.
We would like to be added to the Olympic programme, Canoe 1 and Canoe 2 in the sprint event and Canoe 1 in the slalom. The numbers refer to the number of people in the canoe, single or pair events.
We meet the base criteria of the IOC, 24 countries is the base. We feel we can revitalise the sport of canoeing. But we are still struggling against people who say we don’t belong.
Check out women’s canoeing events on the Women Talk Sports calendar:
Stay tuned for blog posts on the Women Talk Sports Network from Pam Boteler of WomenCAN International!