Slater Trout and Maggie Hogan won overall titles Saturday at the U.S. Flatwater Sprint National Championships. But it was a team victory for standup paddling as a sport, which took one more step toward Olympic inclusion at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Sprint standup paddling was included in Saturday’s nationals event under the ‘Silver Blade Regatta’ banner, where more than 70 competitors raced in marked lanes for the 200-meter sprints and then battled it out on the long course (2,000 meters), which the 16-year-old Trout won on his way to the Overall title.
“I think this is amazing,” he said in between heats at the event. “It would be a dream come true to some day be an Olympian.”
And that hope burned one question in everybody’s mind who watched racers sprint across the water, some in a staggered stance like ex-canoe racer Jim Terrell who won the 200 meter: When, exactly, will SUP become an Olympic sport? The answer isn’t cut and dry. Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO, said that he’s amped on the synergy and excited to bring standup into the USACK family but that the sport still needs time to develop.
“Standup has some great energy right now,” Jacobi said. “But for standup to become an Olympic event, it needs to be popular in more places than just the United States. That’s why we’re watching places like the UK, New Zealand, and Australia closely. Plus it needs a legitimate world tour and a world championship not only to meet Olympic requirements but to increase the sport’s notoriety.”
Jacobi, who earned a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona games in C-2 whitewater slalom and races SUP recreationally, thinks Olympic inclusion is still a ways out. “The 2016 program is already set and in my opinion, the only changes to the 2016 games will be in gender equity. I think 2020 or beyond (is when we can hope to get standup in).”
As Jen Holcomb reported in the spring issue of SUP magazine, the Olympic pie isn’t getting any bigger. To get in alone, the sport must have its own international federation, which SUP lacks), male participants in 75 countries on four continents and female participants in 40 countries. Or, like snowboarding’s move to join the International Skiing Federation, standup must join a branch of an existing Olympic discipline, hence the USACK courtship.
“We think it’s a great fit,” Jacobi said. “We have a seat on the International Olympic Committee and that’s extremely important.”
– Joe Carberry
Think paddling 200 meters at sprint speed is easy? Watch Anthony Vela during his heat at the Silver Blade Regatta. Dude kills it. Vela ended up second in the grueling 2,000 meter race and fourth overall. Kinda gets you pumped to go paddling doesn’t it?
For complete results from Saturday’s race, click here.