The movers and shakers in World Canoeing are confident slalom will remain in the Rio Olympic precinct in 2016.
But those same movers and shakers are also firmly of the view women’s C1 won’t be introduced in Brazil.
It’s a major setback for Australia, which has campaigned to have the new discipline introduced to fix what it sees as a major gender inequity problem for the sport.
Presently in canoe slalom there are three medal events for men and only one for women.
International Canoe Federation Vice President Joao Tomasini acknowledges it is a problem, but not one that can be solved straight away.
“I think long term we must reach that, but long term, not now,” he said in Prague at last week’s World Championships.
“It’s not possible now. I’m sure that canoeing will run in this direction, but not for Rio.
“We must run some points more, and who will go out? Which discipline will go out? We must negotiate this with the organiser, Tokyo 2020. Maybe we can negotiate it with Rio 2016 and the IOC.
“But we can’t jeopardise ourselves, we can’t kill ourselves. And I think we are running for that. We need that. I think in the future canoeing will be like the others, we need to arrange equality.”
Tony Estanguet is a four-time Olympian and gold medalist, recently elected to the IOC’s Athletes Commission. He also sees the value in balancing the program – just not now.
“For sure I would like that C1 ladies be included in Rio Olympics, but I think it will be very hard because today the IOC is very clear that they won’t have a new medal for any sport,” he said.
“So it’s possible for a sport to change its own Olympic program, but without adding a new medal. So afterwards it will be for the ICF to decide the best strategy.
Estanguet says the main focus for his sport right now is to persuade Rio organisers not to move slalom away from the main Olympic precinct.
“I think right now we have to solve the priority, and the priority is to stay in Rio for the slalom, and then we will see in a few weeks if we have to move to another problem with gender equality,” he said.
“Today it’s not my first concern, we have to put all the energy to stay in Rio.”
Like Tomasini, Estanguet acknowledges gender is an issue his sport will have to address.
“I think no sport in the Olympic program is above all the problems. We have this problem with gender equity, but other sports have also problems with other issues,” he said.
“I’m not sure that we will disappear from the Olympic program if we have a problem with gender equity. For sure it will be better to be 50-50, but if it’s not the case, I think we can also show our strengths in the program. We can bring some good values to the Olympic program.
“We have a fantastic sport and maybe we don’t take the opportunity to show it. We have to improve first how we can sell it better before we can modify or change the product.
“We have already a very nice sport, we have to put our energies to make it better known. We have to find the best moment. I’m not sure this is the right moment.”
It’s doubtful the possible inclusion of women’s C1 on the Rio program will even be discussed this week when the top brass of the ICF meet the organising committee in Brazil.
Rio officials have suggested moving slalom to the famous Iguaçu Falls, where there is already a world-class course. Initially it suggested it was a cost-saving measure, but now it’s claimed the Rio site has logistical problems.
Joao Tomasini, himself a Brazilian, has no doubts common sense will prevail and slalom will remain in Rio.
“Yes, it will be. We’re sure about that,” he said.
“The Mayor and the Rio 2016 people asked the ICF to find a way to reduce the cost to stay in Rio, and the ICF and the Brazilian Confederation have found that solution, so we are sure we will stay in Rio.
“Iguaçu is a very good place for us, it is the Brazil Canoe Federation home. But it is not the place for the Games.
“It is not a Games city. We must stay in the games. It is not possible to do the competition far away. It is the south of Brazil, 2 ½ hours flight. It’s not possible. It will be in Rio Canal – I’ve given it a name.”
If nothing else, Tomasini says, Brazil made a promise back in 2009 which helped it beat off other cities campaigning to host the 2016 Games.
“Brazil beat other cities by promising all sports will be in the city, and all sports is in the city,” he said.
“The only one sport they’ve tried to move is canoe slalom. It is not good. We will not accept that. They’ve asked us to find a solution, and we’ve found that.
“We are sure we will fix the situation and confirm the Rio 2016 Canoe Slalom will be in Rio.
“They promised, and they pushed in their bid. I’m Brazilian, and we must do as we promised. And we promised that, so we must arrange that. We have no reason to move. It’s important. “