Abby Hoffman, the famous Canadian sports icon wrote the following in the Ottawa Citizen in reference to the 1996 Olympic Games:
“There is no excuse for perpetuating the blatant sexism that persists at the Games. Not only do women compete in only 21 sports while men take part in 27, but the program of events in most sports has fewer events for women. At the Olympics women do kayaking, but for inexplicable reasons, they don’t canoe. Male paddlers do both.”
It’s been about 16 years since Abby Hoffman noted that women’s canoe was absent from the Olympics. And although some things for women’s sports have improved over time, much has not. Women are competing in every Olympic sport and almost every Olympic discipline – except canoe. A flawed process for inclusion, a lack of leadership at the top, varying degrees of acceptance within our sport, and incorrect perceptions of and unclear guidance for readiness all contribute to an increasingly frustrating situation for our female athletes. Unless the current process is altered, it appears that gender equality for women’s sports – women’s canoe in particular – will not come any time soon. Or can it?