25 September 2017

Estanguet urges canoe slalom to be bold to guarantee future growth

Three-time Olympic canoe slalom champion Tony Estanguet has urged his sport to be courageous and to take risks to ensure it continues to grow as an Olympic discipline.

Estanguet, the co-chair of the successful Paris 2024 Olympic bid and an International Canoe Federation vice president, was speaking on the eve of the 2017 ICF Wildwater and Canoe Slalom World Championships in his hometown of Pau, which he has also been managing.

He said for canoe slalom to take advantage of the Olympics coming to France, a country passionate about the sport, it had to be bold.

“For 2024 everything is remaining possible,” he said.

“We have to focus on new ideas and try to be courageous also, to take some risks and make sure we can convince people from outside our family that canoeing is a sport that is dynamic and able to reinvent itself, and reach a new target with the youth.

“This is important, because this is the first year of a new Olympiad, so after Rio we have to impose ourselves to maybe look at ourselves and refresh a little bit what we offer, what we do.”

The sport has introduced a new discipline, extreme slalom, to the canoe slalom World Cup program this year. It’s a hybrid of freestyle and slalom with a bit of wildwater thrown in, which will be a World Championship medal event this coming weekend.

It’s the sort of event Estanguet believes is key to the future of canoe slalom.

“Effectively we launched this year for the first time the extreme slalom world championships, and this is a good opportunity for us to test new ideas, to try to offer a new show for the spectators and try to reach a new audience, a new target,” he said.

“We need to see if it is possible to reach the youth, thanks to the extreme slalom. I really look forward to seeing what will be the impact, and the feedback from this test.”

The latest change to the Olympic slalom program has seen men’s C2 replaced by women’s C1 for the Tokyo program, but Estanguet said C2 should remain a strong focus for the sport into the future.

As the co-chair of the Paris 2024 bid and future chair of the Games organizing committee, Estanguet has a strong voice inside the Olympic family.

“It was a decision taken four years ago to replace C2 with women’s C1 for reasons of gender equality, but I think it is not a reason to completely leave the C2 away,” he said.

“We have to continue to participate because this is a great category. It won’t be in the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, but maybe in 2024, for the next edition, it could come back.

“So I encourage all the C2 guys and the teams to continue to promote this category.”

Estanguet will have a decent distraction from the rigours of fronting the Paris 2024 bid this week when he presides over the 2017 Wildwater and Slalom World Championships.

It’s the culmination of a 20-year dream for the Pau native, a three-time World Championship gold medallist whose one big regret is never getting to compete in a world title on his home course.

“It’s just a unique moment for me,” Estanguet said.

“In my dreams I was dreaming of this moment for so long. It’s just magic to see in my city, my sport at its best level. We have worked so much over the last three years to offer the best conditions ever for the athletes, and to offer a unique experience for the spectators.

“I can tell you that during the opening ceremony it was really a lot of emotions for me, for my family, and for all the people who supported me during my career.

“Now we have this chance to offer to this city the best show in canoe.”

The 2017 ICF Wildwater and Canoe Slalom World Championships begin on Tuesday and run through until Sunday.

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