Thomas Konietzko has promised to hit the ground running in his new role as President of the International Canoe Federation, buoyed by an overwhelming 94 per cent of the vote at the 2021 Congress in Rome.

Konietzko arrives in the job after what he described as the most successful period in ICF history under the 13-year stewardship of Spain’s Jose Perurena.

But in his acceptance speech he warned not everyone’s wishes would be possible, and said the key to the future of canoeing was bringing the canoeing family even closer together. Konietzko said one of his most important tasks would be to give the canoeing family a united voice.

“Now it is time to work together,” he said.

“I will do my best to take all interests into account, and to make with my colleagues the best decisions for our proud federation, and to create an atmosphere of exchange and transparency, where everyone is happy and proud to be a member of our canoe family.

“We need all of our stakeholders, we need all of you. There was sometimes in the past too little co-operation and collaboration and exchange between our national federations, the ICF office and the board, and as a result there were many disputes and misunderstandings between federations and the ICF leadership.”

One of his first challenges will be producing an Olympic qualification plan for Paris 2024. The IOC is expecting to see the ICF’s proposal by February at the latest.

“Despite the short time, I would like to involve you as closely as possible,” he said.

We need all of our stakeholders, we need all of you

“I will ask first the newly elected sprint committee and slalom committee to discuss the principles of the qualification system. After approval of our qualification process by the IOC, I will propose to publish a question and answer on our website, and take your questions regarding the interpretation.

“With that step I hope we can avoid that we argue again in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or among ourselves, about the interpretation of certain qualification criteria.”

Mr Konietzko already has list of requests to take to the ICF board which he believes will improve the relationship with all stakeholders. He wants to appoint continental representatives for Africa, America and Asia to help national federations in those regions to develop and prosper.

He hopes to appoint a liaison officer within the ICF headquarters, to act as a link between the ICF executive committee, the office and the national federations.

“There are many more issues we have to discuss regarding our ICF middle and long-term strategy. I will propose to the board to form working groups, composed of board members and representatives of our NF’s, to deal with specific strategic issues,” he said.

“There are many topics which I believe we need to discuss to make us fit for the future. Governance, broadcasting strategy, sustainability strategy, our future internal communication strategy, our safeguarding and wellbeing strategy for our athletes to mention only a few.

We have to adapt our future ICF strategy to the strategy of our biggest donator, the International Olympic Committee, and align our strategy with the IOC agenda 2020 +five. We may also find in our work and our discussions that we are well positioned in certain areas, and do not need to change anything.

“But by the next congress in one year’s time, we must have concluded this discussion and jointly adapt an ICF fit for the future strategic plan.”

There is a lot to do, But I ask you, let’s tackle this together

Mr Konietzko endorsed the comments of outgoing ICF vice-president, Tony Estanguet, that one of the ICF’s strengths is its diversity. The ICF has 10 official disciplines, and another four recognised disciplines.

But he said the size of the ICF also brought many challenges.

 “I already know we cannot meet all our expectations, because there are so many different interests in our federation,” Mr Konietzko said.

“The diversity of our disciplines is our greatest strength, because we can contribute with all our different canoeing disciplines to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic movement, and can entertain the sport-loving population.

“But our diversity is also our biggest challenge, because so many different interests have to be taken into account, and that is why we all have to stand united. My vision for the future of our federation is to achieve together the best for our sport, united in our vision. For this we need all our stakeholders, we need all of you.

“We don’t need a revolution to make our federation fit for the future, but we need an evolution.”

Mr Konietzko will host his first ICf board meeting as President on Sunday morning.

“As you can see, there is a lot to do, But I ask you, let’s tackle this together.”