The International Canoe Federation has praised organisers, officials and athletes at this month’s Tokyo 2020 qualifying events in Hungary and Russia after both competitions were completed without a positive Covid test.

Tough new testing and social distancing measures were introduced for the ICF paracanoe and canoe sprint world cup and Paralympic and Olympic qualifiers in Szeged, Hungary, and the global Olympic qualifier and canoe sprint world cup in Barnaul, Russia.

All those attending the events were required to provide a negative PCR test before receiving their accreditations. A second test was carried out during the competition. A strict mask and social distancing policy was also policed.

Fans were not allowed at the Szeged event, however were permitted to attend in Barnaul, but were restricted to seating on the opposite bank of the course from athletes and officials.

Organisers of the Barnaul competition also organised a charter plane to fly participants direct from Hungary to Siberia, to enable athletes and officials to remain in their bubble.

“We have shown the rest of the sporting world that, with appropriate and strongly policed measures, international sporting events can be held safely,” ICF president, Jose Perurena, said.

“We congratulate the event organisers for the outstanding work they did to make these two competitions safe for everyone who took part. And we are incredibly proud of our athletes and officials, who, almost without exception, adhered to the mask and social distancing guidelines we had in place.

“Now our Olympic and Paralympic qualifications are complete. It has been a long and stressful process for everyone, but we can look forward to Tokyo with a sense of optimism. We are certain when it comes to our athletes, they will be playing their part in making the Games a success.”

The ICF and event organisers were able to put into practice measures they introduced in 2020, when they were one of only a handful of international federations to host events because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We congratulate the event organisers for the outstanding work they did

The 2020 canoe sprint world cup in Szeged, and canoe slalom world cups in Tacen, Slovenia, and Pau, France, heralded the start of a new era in live canoeing events, with face masks, social distancing, hand cleansing and regular temperature testing all becoming common place.

All of these measures, coupled with additional safeguards introduced this month, has given the ICF confidence it can successfully and safely host events during these uncertain times.

“The safety and security of our athletes, officials, volunteers and, where and when possible, spectators, will always be our number one priority,” Mr Perurena said.

“At the moment there are still parts of the world where competition is not possible, and athletes are unable to travel. But the uptake of vaccines, and the willingness of participants to embrace the safety measures we have introduced, should give us confidence for the future.

“Already the canoeing community is voting with their feet. We had good numbers in Szeged and Barnaul, we are expecting strong fields at our next two slalom events in Prague and Markkleeberg, and our friends at European Canoeing are also seeing big entry numbers.”

The next ICF event will be a canoe slalom world cup in Prague, Czech Republic, beginning June 11, and a second world cup in Markkleeberg, Germany, one week later.

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