At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Azerbaijan achieved its greatest success in canoeing by winning two medals. 

Three-time world champion Valentin Demyanenko struck silver for Azerbaijan in the men’s C1 200, with Ukraine’s Iurii Cheban registering an Olympic record time to beat him in the final. 

Inna Osypenko-Radomska, who like Demyanenko had switched allegiances from Ukraine to Azerbaijan, delivered the country’s other medal in Rio with bronze in the women’s K1 200. 

The two Canoe Sprint medals were Azerbaijan’s first in canoeing on the Olympic stage and should have been a platform to build from. 

But Azerbaijan now face missing a second successive Olympic Games after failing to qualify for the canoeing competitions. 

“Azerbaijan experienced very glorious times at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” said Alex Nikonorov, an expert coach from the International Canoe Federation. 

“They won two Olympic medals but behind those medals they lost the support for the development level of the sport.” 

Valentin Demyanenko azerbaijan c1 rio 2016 Olympics canoe sprint

Dr. Nikonorov was sent to Azerbaijan by the ICF to conduct a comprehensive situational analysis and develop a strategic plan for the growth of canoeing and kayaking in the country. 

During his visit at the start of this month, Dr. Nikonorov reviewed existing infrastructure, facilities and programmes, analyzed participation rates, athlete development pathways and talent identification processes and evaluated the environmental impact of water sport. 

Dr. Nikonorov also met with key figures within the Azerbaijan Canoe and Rowing Federation (ACRF) and the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as coaches, athletes and judges. 

“My target was to help develop canoeing in the country, make some assessments on what they are doing and see whether their direction of work is good,” said Dr. Nikonorov. 

“They basically restarted the sport from 2022.  

“Considering this, they are doing very well. 

“They started to activating old places and opening new ones and trying to involve as many people as possible in canoe.  

“That’s what they have to do so I expect to see natural growth in performances in the country. 

“Comparing with surrounding countries like Turkey, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, I think they have quite big potential.” 

Azerbaijan junior paddlers canoe kayak 2024

ACRF General Secretary Farhad Aliyev said: “Our time with Alex was very productive as his experience is huge. 

“He is worked all around the world so our coaches were really interested in what he had to say. It was very helpful to have him here. 

“Our aim is promote canoeing in general and the next step is to give more chance for our coaches to get more experience and educate them. 

“There was no development programme in the past. It was only about results which is not good. 

“For the future, we want to bring new energy and have a strategy to work together with the ICF to achieve better. 

“When I arrived, we could only find 30 to 40 athletes but now we have more than 100 athletes. 

“This year, we will have close to 200 athletes. 

“In European standards, it is not a big amount but having started from zero we are getting more and more every year and want to send them to international competitions.”

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Canoe Sprint