Nova Scotia

Olympic decision could end career of world champion paddler Mark de Jonge

The decision Tuesday to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic could spell the end of the successful career of Halifax-based world champion paddler Mark de Jonge.

2020 was going to be the last paddling season for the Halifax-based Olympian

Mark de Jonge celebrates his bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

The decision Tuesday to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic could spell the end of the successful career of two-time world champion paddler Mark de Jonge.

The move, announced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, comes as Canadian athletes were already preparing to miss the Games after the Canadian Olympic Committee announced Sunday it would not allow its athletes to compete in them this summer.

"I'm feeling a little bit of sadness and also a little bit of relief," de Jonge said in an interview from his home in Halifax, before the postponement was announced. "My plan was this was going to be my last season."

The Olympics were scheduled to start in late July. De Jonge said he was like many international athletes who felt the postponement of the 2020 Games was imminent.

For him to commit to training for another full year, now that the Games are pushed back to 2021, is a big decision.

"I'm at an age now, I'm 36, and I have other stuff that I want to get going on in my life," said de Jonge, who is married and has a three-year-old son.

De Jonge, pictured here paddling at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Welland, Ont., is a two-time world champion. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)

De Jonge competed in the 2012 Olympics in London where he won a bronze medal in the K-1 200 metres. He won gold medals at the world championships for Canada in 2014 and 2015, but had a disappointing seventh-place finish in the K-1 200 metre final at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Now self-isolating with his wife and young son at his Halifax home after returning recently from Florida, de Jonge is dealing with many of the same issues facing so many other Nova Scotian families.

"Our daycare closed so it's been interesting," said de Jonge, who calls the Maskwa Aquatic Club on Kearney Lake his hometown paddling club. "It's a nice opportunity to spend some more time with them."

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About the Author

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.