Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kayakers Fight to Keep Sport Afloat at Sydney Games in 2000

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kayakers Fight to Keep Sport Afloat at Sydney Games in 2000

Article excerpt

It's one thing to paddle a kayak twice a day in the dead of winter, bare hands turned blue by the 36-degree water, if you know it may pay off in Olympic glory. It's quite another if your event may not even be held in the next Olympics.

Such is the situation for hundreds of the world's best whitewater kayakers and canoeists waging a last-ditch effort to reinstate whitewater events in the Olympics that Sydney, Australia, will host in 2000.

Last fall the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Sydney Organising Committee (SOCOG) announced that whitewater events had been deep-sixed for 2000. Sydney organizers say the $9.2 million price tag for building a whitewater course is prohibitive, and they cite logistical complications. Also, Sydney wants to limit the number of athletes to 10,200 and keep all of the final events close to downtown. "Apart from the soccer, we don't want any event that's more than 30-minutes' drive from Homebush, the Olympic zone," says Rich Gratton, a spokesman for SOCOG. Since the decision was announced, slalom paddlers worldwide have been lobbying for reinstatement. One of their tools is an international petition drive on the Internet. "We are hanging by a skinny thread," says two-time US Olympian and reigning world champion canoeist Davey Hearn, as he paddles down the Potomac. "No one wanted to see this lost without a fight." Clinton and Olympic whitewater Today in Washington, American canoeists and kayakers are hoping to get a boost during the 11th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Female paddlers are working the day's luncheons and receptions to lobby sports figures like tennis legend Billie Jean King and swimmer Janet Evans to sign the petition. Jennifer Hearn, US kayak champion and wife of Davey Hearn, is leading the paddlers' charge in Washington. She will make their case before President Clinton today. …

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