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January 24, 2005

Freestyle has been staying as far away from the Olympics
as possible since it started, allowing the sport to progress and evolve
naturally. In the past year many of the European Countries have been working
in their countries and with the International Canoe Federation (the recognized
governing body to the International Olympic Committee, and the only organization
that the IOC will recognize) The ICF has since recognized Freestyle officially.
Since then, many of the European Governing bodies under the ICF have been
handed freestyle into their umbrellas, which include flatwater sprint,
slalom, and wildwater racing. This is a big deal for most of those counties
athletes who will now have access to funding for training and competing.
The IFC (International Freestyle Committee) is independent and run by
the 5 representatives that each territory voted in. Discussions yesterday,
open to all athletes and the IFC were held to get on the table the differences
between those who are already handing over their control to the existing
bodies in their countries, and those who have not. Many things were put
on the table. The first is the simple fact that only under the ICF will
freestyle be an Olympic sport. With that said, only with Freestyle will
the ICF stay a viable organization based on what I am seeing there. Because
of declining participation in slalom, sprint racing, and wildwater, the
IFC is not getting the same kind of support or allocation of spots for
the Olympics, causing C2 to be dropped and flatwater cut in half. Freestyle
has the numbers for the ICF to go the IOC and make it viable again. So,
really Freestyle is in a unique position (only because it held out and
stayed independent and grew to where it is today) to write its own check
at the ICF and enter the Olympic world with the potential of maintaining
control of all that is important to freestyle athletes… ALMOST.

Let me quickly state while the Olympics is a sport
killer too. Well, right now, 100% of the freestyle athletes do it because
they love it. Once it becomes an Olympic sport, we will have many, possibly
a majority of athletes that do because they want to be in the Olympics
and win a gold medal. That is an admirable goal, however, it once it becomes
the goal of the athlete, instead of creating a lifestyle doing what you
love, it becomes like any other sport in that way. Slalom used to be a
fun sport to do for the sake of doing it. Now, you are in two camps; those
training for the Olympics, and those not. Once you decide you are training
for the Olympics and say it out loud, it is only a matter of time before
99.5% of all of the athletes realize that they won’t be going to
the Olympics because they can’t get first place and make the team.
So, they simply quit the sport, instead of enjoying at their level. Freestyle
has experience a little of this, once athletes realized that they couldn’t
get the “big sponsors”, many decided to put their efforts

The meeting:

There was really two camps- those painting a pretty
picture of lots of money, Olympics, and a better world for freestyle,
and those repeating words of caution and discussing the downside. Kristine
was on the caution side. There was one example of a country, Holland,
which decided to go to their Olympic federation this year. Well, they
only sent 6 athletes. The other athletes that made the team couldn’t
compete, because the Olympic federation in Holland said that they weren’t
good enough! So, no C1’s, no OC1’s! Why? Because they said
so. The IFC would welcome the rest of their athletes with open arms, but
their federation wouldn’t allow them to come! That is a preview
of what many countries could expect. Canada is like that in slalom, Germany,
etc. etc.

Where do I stand on this? I am for change, for progress,
and for writing the future as it should be, not accepting what is currently
accepted. I believe that Freestyle can become an Olympic sport, and write
its own future inside of a governing body that is known for its old school,
conservative, political, way of doing things. How? Well, first the IFC
must agree that it won’t hand over any part of the sport that is
important to the athletes. Second the IFC must write its own rules that
exempt it from the process of the “Congress” of the ICF which
only allows rule changes every two or four years. Third, for the USA,
Kristine must negotiate the deal with the ACA (the only body recognized
by the ICF for Olympic sport) so the American team maintains proper control
of the sport. Certainly there is no way we will relinquish control to
the ACA, or USAK, only write our own by-laws that allow us to work with
them for the benefit of both of us.

What do I see for the next 10 years?

  1. I see a more committed group of freestyle athletes
    globally with lots of excitement in anticipation of the next Olympics.
    I have no idea which one the debut would happen. This is step 101.
  2. I see a bunch of athletes and former federation
    members becoming disgruntled as the courting period with the ICF is
    over. At some point the reality will hit that the ICF is the ICF and
    although we control our rules, etc. there is much that they will always
    control and we will watch as what was once ours is now being taken from
    us and distributed to the other sports.
  3. I see a new breed of freestyle athletes, that are
    in it for the sport of it and the quality of competition will continue
    to rise even faster than now.
  4. I see another organization that isn’t willing
    to live under the constraints of the IFC hold competitions after a few

What needs to happen now? Well the IFC, and all of
the athletes here must decide on if this is the direction they want to
go or not. In Europe it is done. However, they need many more countries
to join in to make it official for an Olympic sport. I think it will be
decided here and it is an exciting but dangerous time. Arndt Shaeflein
was here a put in his two cents. He has been in freestyle since the beginning.
He said he sees the spirit of the sport being threatened by the greed
for money and Olympic status in Europe. I agree that the most common word
I heard in argument for the changes was the word MONEY. Well, money can
be a great thing, but it isn’t the deciding factor for what a sport
should be, certainly not kayaking.

That is all I have on this now.

🙂 EJ



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British and Irish head honchos

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Muppet from England