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After the 2017 ECA Canoe Sprint and Paracanoeing European Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, we talked with Albert Woods OBE, president of the European Canoe Association.

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Albert Woods OBE was satisfied with the Championships which attracted 450 athletes from 36 countries and pointed out the good work Bulgarian federation did in preparation of this year’s Senior Canoe Sprint European Championships, “I think it went very well. The weather was terrible, but we have to live with that. It wasn’t the organisers fault. But nevertheless the sign of a good organisation is when the weather is bad and it still runs. That means it’s a good organisation. So I think the Bulgarian federation did a great job.”

Canoe Sprint European Championships in Plovdiv was an excellent location to look back 20 years to see the progress canoeing has made since the first Senior Canoe Sprint European Championships that was organised under the auspices of ECA, which was also held in Plovdiv in 1997.

“Well, here in Plovdiv it [the progress] has been tremendous actually, because in 1997 we didn’t even have an automatic starting system. I did my best to get one and I failed. However, now it is a totally different regime here and I think it’s going very well. The only thing we are missing, which we still have to push for, is the return lane on the other side of the regatta course, but in general it’s been great.”

In the past years a lot has changed, paracanoeing has been introduced to the top level competitions and Paralympic Games, women’s canoe has been added to the programme and with a quest to have equal events for men and women they have also been included in the Olympic programme for the Tokyo 2020, “We’ve got a great sport. I think the biggest problem has been the change in the Olympic programme, not a problem, but it has been a good, positive thing. We have equal events for men and women. It’s caused a few issues, but we have to move with it, if we want to continue to be an Olympic sport, we have to follow what the IOC are asking us to do. And that’s where we will go.”

A year ahead of the 25th anniversary of the European Canoe Association which was founded on 11th December 1993 in Rome, Italy, the leading institution of the European Canoeing is on a path of slow but necessary changes. This year’s congress in Bucharest, Romania, brought some changes in the Statute, presentation of the new website https://www.canoe-europe.org, approval of the new logo ...

“Our website is absolutely fantastic, and I think now we’ve learned from Ponte de Lima couple of weeks ago about Facebook and livestreaming. And we are going to work on that, because at the moment is not quite there. We have more to do. People have to pay to take livestreaming, I am sure, however, we have to take it one step forwards and we are working on it already,” said Albert Woods.

And what are the other things that need to be done soon? “I think the more publicity, more professional things, communicating with our members and the people in canoeing and also remembering we want to portray our sport to the whole world not just people within canoeing to make it grow. And I think that’s the way we will go.”

A novelty is also a programme ‘Amazing European Canoeing / Amazing Europe in Canoe’, which is a work of Enrique Prendes, newly appointed associate who is in charge of marketing, and will try to bring to life a promotion of European Canoeing.

“It’s a great thing that we are going down the path of. And we are going to celebrate 25 years in Spain next year. It’s good that we do that and recognize the great results that our competitors have done in Europe. In Europe we have 85% of all the Olympic medallists in the sport of canoeing. So, I think that’s a good way forwards and this Amazing European Canoeing programme is one way to do that,” concluded Albert Woods.

Source: European Canoe Association by Nina Jelenc.

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