Youth Olympics perfect for aspiring canoeists, says Liebscher

Tom Liebscher doesn’t remember a lot about the competition at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, but he has a clear recollection of the atmosphere and the excitement that came with competing for the first time at a major multi-sport event.

The big German is now an Olympic gold medallist and a three-time World Champion, including in the individual K1 1000 at last year’s world titles in Racice in the Czech Republic.

In 2010, the now 24-year-old had to settle for silver.

“From the canoeing event itself I don’t remember that much, except my final opponent, Sandor Totka from Hungary,” Liebscher recalled.

“But at the end that was not the important thing, what the IOC want to teach us. It was more important to meet other sportsmen from other countries and sports, to learn more about different cultures and connect with people all over world for the upcoming  life.”

Later this year the third Youth Olympic Games will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bringing together some of the most talented teenage athletes in the world.

Several world-class canoe athletes made their start at a Youth Olympics, including Olympians and World Champions Jessica Fox, Jakub Grigar, Jiri Prskavec and Anze Urankar.

And for all of them, including Liebscher, it piqued an interest which gave them the determination to compete at the highest level.  

“Yes, of course,” Liebscher said.

“The atmosphere in the Olympic Village finally awakened in me the longing to make it to the Olympic Games. 

“It is like the Olympic Games, you only have the chance to qualify every four years. That’s why it is a special event, where not everybody has the chance to qualify for it. And Buenos Aires is also a really nice city.”

The ICF will run a qualification event in Barcelona next month, attracting athletes from all over the world hoping to earn the chance to follow the footsteps of Liebscher et al.

Canoeing at the YOG is a hybrid of sprint, slalom and wildwater, making it a unique event which can be contested by all.

And Liebscher believes its because of this format that young athletes should put their hat in the ring to compete at a YOG.  

“Sometimes for young athletes it is better not focus too much on the senior Olympic events,” he said.

‘For example, the decision to train for 200m or 1000m. So in my opinion a different event to the normal events for such young athletes is not that bad.

“They have enough time and competitions in the normal way.”

The Youth Olympic Games canoeing world qualification will be held in Barcelona from April 12-15, and the 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be held in Buenos Aires from October 6 to 18.

Interested athletes should contact their National Federation for qualification details. 

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom
Wildwater Canoeing
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