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Ottawa and region's paddlers chase Olympic and Paralympic berths for Canada –

Ottawa and region's paddlers chase Olympic and Paralympic berths for Canada –

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Written by Martin Cleary

They're canoe and kayak enthusiasts, but now they're on a massive marathon mission that they hope will take them to Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics or Paralympics.

Canada's elite Olympic and Paralympic rowers, like their counterparts around the world, began this long and qualifying process last summer to secure national quota spots in the five men's and five women's Olympic and 10 Paralympic events on the fairway at Fayre-sur-Marne. in France.

Athletes who have secured quota spots so far for Canada are now battling it out with their peers to see who will grab Olympic team berths during a series of races, which began this week with the first national team trials in Chula Vista, California.

The first round of Olympic quota qualifying for speed kayak athletes was held at the 2023 IDF World Championships in Duisburg, Germany, in August. There were 162 quota places (individual and team) available for 117 male and 117 athletes in the men's and women's single kayaks (K1), double kayaks (K2), four kayaks (K4), single kayaks (C1) and double kayaks (C2).

On the Paralympic side, the top six athletes in each of their 10 races at the World Championships earned a spot for their country.

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Canada did extremely well at the World Championships last year, whether it was qualifying for the Olympic and Paralympic Games or winning medals.

While Canada finished third in the medal standings with three golds, two silvers and two bronzes and fourth in the points standings behind Hungary, Germany and Spain, it saw 12 of its national team players score Olympic berths in four women's and one men's. race.

Ottawa's Brianna Hennessy led Canada's three-medal performance at the Paralympic track worlds with a silver-medal effort in the women's 200m VL2 and a bronze in the KL1 200m. Her results also earned Canada a spot in the running at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris from Aug. 28-September. 8.

Canada's only medal in an Olympic qualifying race at the World Championships came in the women's C2 500 metres, where Sloane McKenzie and Katie Vincent took bronze.

Other Canadian runners who have earned Olympic quotas are: Sophia Jensen of Chelsea, PQ, Cascades Club, C1 women's 200 metres; Michelle Russell, women's K1 500 metres; Natalie Davison and Toshka Bechara-Hripaka, both of the Rideau Canoe Club, and Courtney Stott and Riley Melanson, in the women's K4 500m; And Nicolas Matiev, Pierre-Luc Poulin, Laurent Lavigne and Simon McTavish, men's K4 500 metres.

Depending on their discipline, these Canadian athletes finished fifth and 10th at the 2023 World Championships to earn a spot in the Olympic quota.

This group of 12 could grow even larger as Canoe Kayak Canada will send a team to the Continental Americas Olympic Qualifiers and Pan American Championships April 23-25 ​​in Sarasota, Florida to chase more quota berths to Paris.

As the national federation continues its quest for more Olympic and Paralympic quota spots, high-performance athletes are rowing hard to turn one of those quota points into their ticket to represent Canada at their respective Summer Games.

The first test on the water was the national team's opening trials this week. Six Olympic racers and two Paralympic paddlers from Ottawa and the region took to the course in Chula Vista, California. It's part of a series of Olympic and Paralympic races to find the best Canadian rowers for the Games.

Canoe Kayak Canada is scheduled to announce its teams next week to challenge for the next two races – the World Cup Powerboat Race May 10-12 and the 2024 Paracanoe World Championships May 9-11 in Szeged, Hungary.

The second and final trials for the national team will be held from June 21 to 23 at the Olympic Aquarium in Montreal. The Paris Olympics are scheduled to be held from July 26 to August 11, and the canoe and kayak races are scheduled to take place in the second week, from August 6 to 10.

At her first national team trials, Jensen put in a strong performance in her bid to win her first Olympic assignment in the C1 200m and/or C2 500m boats. Women's canoe racing made its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with just two races compared to women's kayak's five.

Jensen, who recently held three training camps on the California Waterway, finished second in all three of her races. Her performance should qualify her for the national team's only World Cup of the season in Szeged.

She won the C1 200m in a world-class time of 44.944 seconds, which exceeded her goal of under 45 seconds. In the final, she came in second place with a time of 46.003 seconds, while world champion Vincent won the 500 meters and 5000 meters C1 race with a time of 44.588 seconds.

The C1 500m final produced the same finish for Vincent-Jensen 1-2 – 2:07.853 to 2:09.608 respectively. The 500 meter dash is also a non-Olympic event.

In the women's C2 500 metres, Jensen and her long-time partner Julia Lily Osinde were less than a second behind winners Mackenzie and Vincent – ​​1:59.296 to 1:58.326.

Rideau's Evie MacDonald also competed in the women's canoe category with a pair of B-final results and second-place finishes in the 200 meters (49.11 seconds) and 500 meters (2:20.166). She also teamed up with Jessie Grant, the C1 women's 1000m world champion, to finish third in the C2 500m (2:12.476).

Madeleine Schmidt, who captured gold and silver medals at the 2023 World Championships in the combined K2 200m and K1 5000m respectively, had a best performance of third in the K1 500m A final (1:56.479). She also won the K1 500m B final on the opening day of the national trials with a faster time (1:55.918). Rideau kayaker and teammate Maren Bradley placed third in the K2 A 500-meter final (1:50.414).

Bradley raced in the K1 500m B finals, posting second-place results (1:58.332) and third-place results (1:57.903).

Davison and Rideau's teammate Stott won the women's K2 500m (1:48.809). In her two K1 500m races, she placed fourth in the A final (1:57.831) and first in the B final (1:56.632).

Bechara-Hripaka of Rideau and Melanson took second in the K2 500m final (1:49.839). In the K1 500m B finals, Bechara-Hripka was second (1:56.718) and third (1:58.342).

In Hennessy's six paracanoe races, which saw an Ottawa River Canoe Club athlete compete against a woman, another male or alone, she recorded three times under one minute (55.543 seconds, 57.531 seconds and 59.658 seconds) and three times within one minute (1 ). :01.462, 1:01.532 and 1:02.207). The official results did not specify whether she raced in the canoe or kayak events.

Rideau's Gabriel Veron Pujos also faced little competition as his 200m times were 43.961 seconds, 45.106 seconds and 45.567 seconds.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A former Canadian Sportswriter of the Year and Ottawa Sports Award recipient for lifetime achievement in sports media, Martin retired from full-time work at Ottawa Citizen In 2012, but continued to write the bi-weekly “Achievers” column for Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic hit, Martin created a “Stay-Safe Edition” for standouts to provide some positive news during tough times, first via his Twitter account and now here on

Martin can be reached via email at [email protected] and above Twitter @martincleary.

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