The gold medal won by Terence Saramandif from Mauritius at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games put smiles on the faces of a lot of people, including those within the International Canoe Federation responsible for the development of canoeing around the world.

Saramandif is a graduate of the ICF’s Talent Identification Program, a project with a brief to identify and develop new canoe athletes in the corners of the globe where canoeing is still developing.

The African teenager is not TIP’s only success story. Graduates have also been winning medals at Asian Games and PanAm Games, and have made semi-finals at World Cup slalom and sprint events. And of course, several athletes have also made the Olympics.

This week in Iran there are about 17 athletes from nine countries taking part in a TIP camp ahead of the U23 Asian Canoe Slalom Championships. Even more exciting for the sport is that the camp is being run by graduates from earlier TIP.

“TIP is working exactly how we hoped it would,” ICF TIP co-ordinator, Pierrick Gosselin, said.

“Many of the first graduates are now running camps of their own, or they’re coaching or acting as administrators in their countries. It’s helping us take canoeing into areas where the sport is still growing, and the results have been fantastic.

“We have now got athletes from Africa, South and Central America and Asia all making their mark on the world stage. And we have a guy from Mauritius with a YOG gold medal around his neck.”

Talent Identification Programme South America

At the recent Panams in Brazil there were a string of medals for TIP athletes, and a camp with 15 athletes from Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Venzuela. It was the first time Bolivia sent an athlete to a TIP America camp.

Chile’s Andraz Olguin won a bronze in the men’s K1, Mexico’s Sasha Azcona took bronze in the women’s K1 juniors, and fellow Mexican Daniel Saldana was a bronze medallist in the junior men’s C1 and a silver medallist in the junior canoe slalom cross.

Another Mexican, Sofia Reinoso, won bronze in the women’s extreme canoe slalom, while Venezuela took a team silver in the men’s C1 and Chile took a team bronze in the men’s K1.

“Medals are fantastic, of course, but for us just having athletes competing from all corners of the globe is what makes us most excited,” Gosselin said.

“In Iran we will have athletes from the host nation, from Vietnam, Lebanon, India, Thailand, Taipei, as well as Turkey.

“None of these countries would be considered as world canoeing powerhouses. Many of them have next to no facilities. But that is all changing, and that is pretty uplifting for all involved.”

The improvement in continental-level competition has been achieved after four years of deep involvement  from local stakeholders and ICF Slalom development.

It started with an Expand and Extend women’s canoe camp, gathering athletes from Iran, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia. What followed were bold programmes for coaching development and race organisation development, which enabled the shaping of a project "Around Water Sports".

Co-operative work between rowers and kayakers, all targeting YOG 2018, allowed three teenagers from Iran (two kayakers and one rower) to get their ticket to Argentina.

Iran’s Nirvana Asadbeki has been one of the most recent success stories, winning C1W slalom silver at the World YOG qualification in Barcelona and finishing fourth at YOG 2018.

Overall the programme has reached more than 30 coaches and 60 athletes.

2018 Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires Argentina SARAMANDIF Terence Benjamin MRI - ANDERSON Finn NZL

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