Satyam Maharaj could have followed the path of so many of his friends and played cricket.

It would certainly have made life a lot easier for the 27-year-old Trinidadian. Cricket is a national pastime in Trinidad and Tobago, and its never too hard to find a game going on somewhere.

Maharaj loves cricket. He’s looking forward to playing in a tournament when he gets home next week. But it’s not his first choice as a sport. He chose canoe sprint, and for almost a decade he’s been battling the odds to follow his sporting dreams.

In 2010 he became the first person in Trinidad and Tobago to actually take up canoe sprint as a sport. It was great to be first, he said, but he hopes he also won’t be the last.

“Canoeing is not very big in Trinidad compared to the rest of the world,” Maharaj said.

“Right now we have only five K1 paddlers, all male, all still developing. It’s still a relatively new sport in Trinidad, and we are just looking to try and develop the sport the best that we can.

“We have minimal facilities. We paddle on the ocean, because we don’t have any rivers and dams big enough to facilitate training camps and the like. We make good with what we have.”

Maharaj is competing in Duisburg, Germany, this week at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup. Equipment problems hindered his performance in both the K1 200 and K1 500, and he admits he’ll fly home to Trinidad on Monday a disappointed man.

It’s not that he doesn’t love the sport. It’s the struggle of balancing full-time training with his day job as an engineer, and that he has to put his hand in his own pocket every time he wants to represent his country, that fills his head with doubts.

“This is my last race for this year. I’m going to take some time off, focus on myself, and then decide if I am going to continue, or leave it to the younger guys,” Maharaj said on Friday.

“The Olympics is my dream, but having to fund these things myself, and still being relatively young, I need to look at my future as well to develop my life outside of kayaking.

“It’s hard work getting up at 5am and training, and then going to work, and then back to training in the evening. I need some time for myself, and then take it from there. When I clear my head and decide if it is worth going after next year, then I’ll be in a good position to know what I want to do.”


Maharaj fell in love with canoeing as a teenager doing sea scouts in Trinidad. Even though he was in a recreational canoe at the time, he knew he wanted to try racing kayaks. When Trinidad and Tobago formed a canoe federation, the opportunity presented itself, and he took it.

That was 2010. He’s represented his country at Pan American Games and an ICF World Championships since then. The Olympics is the missing piece of the jigsaw, but even though its now just over 12 months away, Maharaj is not sure he’ll get there.

“We fund ourselves. This trip here was funded solely by myself. I am an engineer, so I make a decent salary, so I saved up as much as I could. I got some help from some friends and that’s what got me here today,” he said.

“I have already made history in Trinidad and Tobago. I was the first, I started the sport. I hope I don’t end it. We will have someone at the world championships I hope.”


It’s the dreaded C word – commitment. And cash. And community. Maharaj knows that to get to Tokyo, and to lay the foundations for his sport into the future, will require strong support both on and off the water.

He would love canoeing to be as popular in Trinidad as it is in Germany, but he knows that is unlikely to happen. But even getting a fraction of the support would make his life so much easier.

“The sport here is like cricket and football and track and field back home for us,” he said in Duisburg.

“I don’t expect us to get to that level any time soon, but if we can get to 25 per cent of that, we will be in a good position to take it on for the future.”

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