The Canadian canoeing community is giving thumbs up to a proposal by the International Canoe Federation to have women's canoeing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
At present, women's canoeing is not an Olympic event, but kayaking is.
"It's really exciting news. It's going to open a ton of doors for more funding for us and international opportunities," said canoeist Hannah MacIntosh.
The Dartmouth, N.S. resident's specialty is the C-1 200-metre event. In 2011, she won a bronze at the junior world championships in Germany and she finished fourth in the under-23 world championships last summer in Portugal.
For women's canoeing to become part of the games, it will require ratification by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The International Canoe Federation (ICF) says the IOC will make a decision after this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"This has been a long time coming and is a really positive step forward," said Jeff Houser, the regional coach for the Atlantic division of Canoe Kayak Canada.
For close to 25 years, Houser has been involved in efforts to have women's canoeing included first in the Canadian national championships — and the Olympic Games.
"Canada led the way on women's canoe being accepted internationally and Nova Scotia actually led the way on it being accepted within Canada, so we've been ahead of the game all along," he said.
Three events at 2020 Games?
The ICF race program calls for having the following women's canoeing events:
- C-1 200 metres
- C-2 500 metres
- C-1 canoe slalom
Even with the additions, there would still be five events for female kayakers and three for canoeists.
"It's not so easy to say to the athletes, 'The kayakers get all this, but the canoers only get these other two events,'" said Houser.
However, the total number of events for canoeists and kayakers would be split evenly between men and women at eight a piece.
Canoeist Katie Vincent trains in Nova Scotia during the fall and winter and goes to university in the area. She is thrilled about the proposed changes, but is surprised it's taken this long to fix.
"I think there's been a lack of equality in [the] sport for as long as it's been around," said the Mississauga, Ont. resident.
Vincent has medalled at both junior and under-23 world championships, but she is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume.
"I'm really excited for the next five years," she said.