Amado Cruz achieved a dream when he represented his country in the canoe sprint at Tokyo, the first athlete from Belize to compete in canoe sprint at an Olympic Games.

He wants to go to a second Olympics in Paris in 2024. But to get there it would help if he had his own kayak. And a coach.

Such is the current status of canoe sprint in the Central American country of Belize. A country with a beautiful coastline and picturesque waterways, professional canoe sprint is but a pipedream.

Cruz was one of two canoe sprint athletes awarded a tripartite quota for Tokyo, Olympic positions which are set aside for athletes from countries where a sport is in its infancy. The second quota was awarded to Mozambique in Africa.

Amado Cruz wants to continue leading the way for his country. The 34-year-old joined an ICF talent camp ahead of this week’s ICF canoe sprint world championships in Dartmouth, Canada.

For the first time in his short career he had access to top level coaching and his own kayak. Not surprisingly, his improvement this week has been massive.

“I’ve improved a lot from the TIP camp, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to learn something which I can share when I get back home,” Cruz said.

Once upon a time Cruz used to take part in a regular canoe race, which featured three athletes sitting down in a canoe. At around the time of the Rio Olympics he decided it was time for a change.

“In 2016 I made the transition to kayaking, which we just started doing on our own, without any coach and without any proper equipment,” he said.

“We train in a river which is very twisty. We still have no facilities, we still struggle, we don’t have a coach, we have only four kayaks, but they are really small. Right now we have about ten athletes, and we don’t have enough kayaks for everyone to train.

“Everything we do, we just do on our own.”

Despite the lack of facilities and lack of coaches, Cruz is determined to push on. He’s looking forward to getting back to Belize to share what he has learnt in Dartmouth. But he’s also hoping his participation in the TIP camp will raise awareness at an international level of the support needed to lift Belize to the next level.

“I’m glad that I got this opportunity here to come and learn some more about kayaking,” he said.

“I love being in the water, and paddling is something I love to do, and I found it easy to adapt to. I just want to learn and make a good time. I know I can’t compare myself with most of these guys out here, so just to come here, learn and do a good time.

“I would love to continue doing this, its something I love doing, and of course the Olympics is always a goal.”

Canoe Sprint
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