Current and past Olympians came together yesterday at Penrith Whitewater Stadium today to celebrate 20 years of Olympic legacy 20 years on from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games canoe slalom competition. 
Sydney Olympians Robin Bell and Kai Swoboda, Rio Olympians Lucien Delfour and Ian Borrows were joined by Sydney 2000 canoe slalom head coach and Olympian Richard Fox, Sydney 2000 team manager Noel Harrod, Australian Olympic Committee vice-president Helen Brownlee, and Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll, as well as SOCOG, federal and state and local government representatives to commemorate the Sydney 2000 Games that kicked-off a 20-year success story of the world-class Penrith Whitewater Stadium.
“It’s great catching up with everyone.  Some of the guys on the team, I haven’t seen literally for about 19 years,” Bell said.  

“At that point we had common ground and then they were a bit older than me so they kind of left and had kids and work, so it’s really good catching up with everyone and reminiscence about the times we had in 2000. 
“There’s a lot of stories that happened in 2000, some of them you can share, some of them you can’t but there’s a lot of good, fun times.  The best thing about it was that Sydney was so good, there was such a big energy in Sydney at the time.  Everyone was getting into it, everyone was having a good time, so it was such a good thing.

“What inspired me actually was meeting the other Olympians as well.  Canoe slalom’s obviously a pretty small sport, it’s grown in Australia, but it was actually meeting the rest of the Australian Olympic Team.” 

Sydney was so good, there was such a big energy in Sydney at the time

Since Sydney 2000, Penrith Whitewater Stadium has continued to host the world’s best paddlers and has been pivotal to the success of Australia’s top canoe slalom athletes, including 2008 Olympic silver medallist Jacquie Lawrence, 2008 Olympic bronze medallist and world champion Robin Bell, as well as Jessica Fox, who was inspired by Sydney 2000 at the age of six to follow her Olympic dream.  

Since then, Fox has won two Olympic medals, ten world championship titles and is set for her third Olympic Games come Tokyo 2020+1.
“Penrith Whitewater Stadium has been an integral part of my career.  I was able to build my whitewater skills and technique on a world class venue, be exposed to some of the world’s best athletes who have been coming to Penrith since 2000 for the Aussie summer and we’ve been able to host international events,” Fox said from her current training location in Pau, France.

“I wish I was a bit older in 2000 to understand and appreciate just how special it was to have a home Olympics.  I think I was more inspired by the Athens Olympics, being 10 and sporty and already dreaming of the Olympics, but I think Sydney’s legacy had a significant impact on me.  

“Obviously having the whitewater stadium in Penrith and being able to train there once I was old enough has been great and is one of the reasons I’ve been able to achieve what I have.”

I wish I was a bit older in 2000 to understand and appreciate just how special it was to have a home Olympics

Fellow Rio Olympian and Tokyo 2020 team mate Lucien Delfour joined the celebrations in Penrith and agreed about the impact Penrith Whitewater Stadium has had on his career. 
“I came out here (to Australia) in 2007 and that was my first time on an actual artificial course that’s Olympic size and I thought it was amazing,” he said.  

“It’s such a different thing from a natural river, it’s messy and perfect at the same time and it’s so much fun.  For me, it’s great to train here every day, it’s one of the best courses in the world.” 

Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll acknowledged the legacy of Penrith Whitewater Stadium, which 20 years on is still pivotal to the success of Australian canoe slalom.
“20 years on, it’s one of the great legacy venues from the 2000 Games,” he said.  

“Not only is it a legacy venue but it’s also a way for the athletes to keep training for the Games that have rolled on since then, and Australia’s done very well in the sport of paddle.  

“Having this centre built at the time was obviously a lot of foresight and it’s lasted for years. It’s so important for the athletes’ preparations for the Games.  If we didn’t have it here in Australia, it would make it a whole lot different.

  20 years on, it’s one of the great legacy venues from the 2000 Games

“Looking down the track, before we know it, it will be Paris and then LA and who knows, we might have a Games in South East Queensland in 2032, so a great 10-year runway.”

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the origins of this iconic Sydney 2000 legacy venue, also marks the starting point of an exciting future for the Olympic sport of canoe slalom and the local community of Penrith, with an Australian Government grant towards a permanent high-performance facility at the venue.

Cora Zillich/Paddle Australia

Canoe Slalom