There was plenty of history created at the paracanoe competition at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and not all of it was on the water.

Sitting in the starting shed and keeping the programme ticking over smoothly was Canadian Erin Schaus, the first female starter in canoe sprint at either a Paralympic or Olympic level.

“It really was breaking a barrier for women officials,” Schaus said.

“It created an opportunity for me at the Paralympics to demonstrate my abilities and competencies as a starter, and I think this event has also showcased women as officials. Yes I am a female starter, but we have about half the officials involved in the competition.

“I’m different from the norm of other starters. Not only do I look different, but I sound different from other starters. So I wanted to show that I am able to perform well as a starter, and deliver what is expected as a starter.”

The driving force for Schaus has been a long love affair with the sport of canoe sprint, firstly as an athlete, then as a volunteer, before finally taking on the role of an event official. Being the official starter can be a nerve-wracking job, even more so at a Paralympics.

“One of the biggest pressures we have is making sure we give a fair start to all competitors in the competition,” she said.

“I became attracted to being a starter because of the excitement that you feel at the start line for those athletes. My skills were very transferable into being a starter. It’s a really exciting place to be.

“I look at every competition as a learning opportunity to become a better official, and hopefully down the road I will be working at events and my gender will not play a role as to my abilities as a starter.”

The increased role for women officials included chief judge Karen Simpson-Warren and deputy chief judge, Laura White (both representing the Oceania region), and competition manager Liubov Marinova.

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