ICF vice-president confident of future for joint Korean dragon boat team

Preparations for a joint North and South Korean dragon boat team at the upcoming Asian Games are well underway, International Canoe Federation vice-president Thomas Konietzko said after a visit to Pyongyang last week.

Mr Konietzko revealed there were also discussions about a joint Korean team competing in this year’s ICF Dragon Boat World Championships, to be held in Atlanta in September, which would represent the first time a joint Korean team has competed in the USA.

“My discussions with members of the DPRK Canoe Federation were very positive, and I left impressed by their enthusiasm and their vision for the future,” Mr Konietzko said.

“The International Canoe Federation will work with both Korean Federations to ensure these exciting projects come to fruition.”

The plans for the Asian Games and the possible inclusion in the ICF World Championships were part of a wider discussion Mr Konietzko held with DPRK Canoe Federation officials and representatives of the National Olympic Committee about the development of canoe in the region.

He also announced athletes from both countries would come together for a training camp prior to the Asian Games next month.

“After a visit two weeks ago in South Korea and the confirmation from the South Korean Canoe Federation, the ICF is now very happy to receive  also the full commitment of the DPRK Canoe Federation to participate in a joint Dragon Boat team together with athletes from South Korea in the Asian Games,” Mr Konietzko said. 

“The entries for the North Korean athletes are already submitted by the DPRK NOC to the Asian Games Organizing Committee.

“Both federations confirmed their intention to run before the Asian Games a joint training camp in South Korea a week before the competition will start in Palembang.

“Up to 16 athletes and coaches from each Korean Canoe Federation will participate in the joint team in Indonesia.”

Mr Konietzko said if visa issues can be addressed there is a strong chance a joint Korean team will compete at the ICF World Championships in Atlanta between September 13 and 16.

He said the timing will be very significant.

“During the time of the ICF Canoe Dragon Boat World Championships, the United Nations will held their General Assembly in New York,” he said.

“Both President Trump and (North Korean President) Kim Jong-un are expected to participate in the UN General Assembly, and there is no better moment for the start of a joint Korean Dragonboat team in the USA.

“Once again, canoeing and sport is showing its power to unite people. Even if this is only a small step, it`s an important sign for a more peaceful future for the Korean peninsula.

“The entire canoe family is happy to contribute to this development.”

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