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Visa concerns strand Ugandan kayaking team

Uganda national freestyle kayak team
If immigration concerns aren’t resolved in the next nine days, the Uganda freestyle kayaking team will not be able to participate in the 2015 World Championships. Photo: Uganda Freestyle Kayak Team 2015
The Ugandan freestyle kayaking team has no issue navigating the most difficult big-wave features of freestyle kayaking, having practiced their sport on the Nile Special river wave in their homeland. Unfortunately, however, as reported by CANOE & KAYAK, it isn’t the river breaks that the Ugandan team is having difficulty with, but rather bureaucratic red tape.

According to C&K’s report, the Ugandan national freestyle kayaking team isn’t going to be able to make it to the World Freestyle Kayak Championships being held Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 in Ottawa, Ontario, due to immigration concerns.

The team has twice been denied visas by Canadian immigration officials in Nairobi, Kenya, due to concerns that they will never return to Uganda if allowed inside Canadian borders.

"We are disappointed to hear through our friends in Uganda that their freestyle team's visa applications have been denied," the organization CanoeKayak Canada wrote in a letter to the Canadian Visa Application Centre. "This is an international event and participation from all countries that wish to compete is imperative in assuring a high level of competition. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for countries to unite in celebration of sport while putting aside political and cultural differences."

RELATED: Does Calcutta’s Ganges have the world’s best river waves?

Freestyle kayaking is a sport that, in a way, resembles a surfing contest, with athletes performing tricks and maneuvers while “surfing” a river break. And according to those close with the Ugandan team, the real tragedy in their immigration issue is that they had a legitimate shot at winning the championship.

“They're a very strong team," said freestyle kayaker Jessie Stone, who has met the athletes through medical work in Uganda. "Their training on the fantastic waves of the Nile makes them real contenders. It's hard to imagine after all the training and fundraising efforts that they have gone through that Canada would not see them as a really important part of the competition. It's a frustrating situation."

Read more about the Ugandan national freestyle kayaking team, and their struggle to gain entry to Canada, here.

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