Joaquim Lobo went to bed on Thursday night believing his Tokyo 2020 Olympic dream was over.

The 26-year-old from Mozambique had spent the day trying to qualify for the final of the men’s C1 1000 at the ICF’s global Olympic qualifiers in Barnaul, Russia, but had fallen short. He had paddled in Rio in 2016, and wanted nothing more than to go to a second Games.

Despite the disappointment, he climbed back in his canoe and headed out on Friday morning to contest the heats of the ICF world cup, knowing that no matter how well he paddled, it would have no bearing on his chances of getting to Tokyo.

That door, he believed, was now firmly closed.

Little did he know as he paddled back to the boat sheds after his race, having qualified for the semi-final, that good news awaited him. Overnight the IOC had confirmed that he would be offered one of the two tripartite quotas available to canoe sprint athletes for Tokyo.

At first he had no idea why the ICF was congratulating him. We showed his coach the email from the IOC – Joaquim Lobo would be going to his second Olympics for Mozambique.

“I can’t believe it, this is like a dream for me,” a stunned Lobo said.

“I trained so hard after Rio, but I have had such a difficult season because of Covid and other things, so now I’m just so happy.

“Yesterday was not a good day, so today I just wanted to do my best and see what happens. And now I am going to Tokyo.”

The second tripartite quota will be going to Amado Cruz, a 33-year-old kayak paddler from Belize who will make history in Tokyo by becoming his country’s first ever canoe athlete at an Olympic Games.

Five years ago, that was Lobo. He and C2 partner Mussa Chamaune were the first paddlers from Mozambique to compete at the Olympics, and their experience captured the hearts and minds of fans back home.

“It’s very important for Mozambique, because the kids there saw us as an example. Now we can motivate the kids again to try canoeing,” he said.

“I have had to change my paddling, because in Rio I was doing C2 1000, and now I will do C1. But I will be there again. I can’t believe it.”

Tripartite positions are open to athletes from countries that have small teams at an Olympic Games.

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