As the nation prepares for this week’s announcement of further lockdown regulations to deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Canoeing South Africa has moved pre-emptively to shift its major events by five weeks and reorganise its calendar of races to ensure full compliance with the battle against the coronavirus.
“We are in the eye of the storm, and the paddling community, like the whole of the country, is getting daily tragic reminders of how serious this virus is,” said Canoeing South Africa president Kim Pople. “We have to be responsible and try and lead by example as a sporting federation.”
Pople confirmed that an agreement has been reached to move the popular N3TC Drak Challenge from the end of January to 6 and 7 Match 2021, the MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon to 18 to 20 March and the Stihl Umkomaas Marathon to 27 and 28 March 2021.
“The calendar will be totally redrafted. There will be events that will fall away and others that move to new dates, but we will do our best to ensure that we can keep the sport alive while being fully compliant with the prevailing regulations,” she added.
Pople pointed out that KwaZulu-Natal is enjoying one of its wettest summers in more than a decade and as more dams fill the ability to move major river races to alternate dates later in the summer becomes a lot more realistic.
“Paddlers have been able to continue their training by using their CSA membership permits while the current rule closing rivers, dams and beaches to public access is in force,” said Pople.
“To be able to even look at staging races we have a lot of factors to take into consideration. Medical services are under severe strain, and we need to respect the amazing work our front line health care workers are doing. But event medical personnel will find it very difficult to properly manage a serious case if it does happen at a paddling ace.
“There are major ethical issues to take into account as well. We cannot create an event that might turn into a super-spreader, not matter how desperate we are to paddle,” said Pople.
“Sponsors are critical to the well-being of our sport and they will never want to associate themselves with an event or a sport that is in any way acting irresponsibly,” she added.
“This is a complex and evolving situation, and we simply ask all our paddlers to be fully respectful of the requirements in place to enable them to train and, when we get to that point, to take part in races again,” she said.