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Letter: Allocations of Olympic funding

Tuesday 17 January 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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Letter: Allocations of Olympic  funding

I write in support of other families who are still waiting for promised funding from Tokyo Olympics and are questioning the allocations of Olympic Solidarity Funding.

As some background; Jane Nicholas qualified a Cook Islands spot for the Tokyo Olympics with her performance at the Canoe Slalom World Championships in Spain in 2019. Canoe Slalom is one of the two Olympic canoeing disciplines, the other being canoe sprint. The athletes are strapped into a very light canoe and paddle against the clock through hanging gates over white water rapids. It’s physically challenging and very technical.

As we know the Olympics were then postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jane then had to balance her career and her training for the next two years to enable her to put down a creditable performance when the games were finally held.

She did everything required of a High-Performance Athlete and took a full year out of her medical training to enable this. This level of commitment paid off  when she paddled her way into the semi-finals ahead of many larger, better resourced nations.

Her performance was commented on by international media and she even made headlines in the New York Times, putting her tiny nation on the world stage.

Her Olympic Solidarity Scholarship and promised Olympic NAP (National Activity Programme) funding helped pay some of her expenses and those of her coach. Jane and family and friends still had to come up with the balance required, at least three times the allocation of her Olympic Solidarity Funding.

I went to Tokyo as her manager, my third Olympics supporting a Cook Islands canoe slalom athlete. I paid all my own flights and MIQ on return in order to support her, something that was required at the canoeing event and as a backstop if Covid necessitated her exit from the village or any other scenarios where she needed support.

The trouble is, the promised NAP funding is still owed.

CISNOC say it’s still coming, but so are the next Olympics, very rapidly (excuse my pun).

Adding to the funding issues is that while on paper Jane should receive Olympic Solidarity funding for the next Olympics, as a tier 1 high performance athlete, CISNOC decided not to put forward her Olympic Solidarity Scholarship application and support canoe slalom anymore because it’s not in the Pacific and Commonwealth Games. They chose other paddlers who don’t even paddle an Olympic discipline.

In addition they tell us that there are new rules around what sports are being supported and new requirements that athletes need to live in the Cooks for large periods of time. These new rules don’t seem to equate with other sports e.g. swimming, league, rugby. We know that top athletes need to train and compete offshore, often balancing educational needs with their sport.

The Oceania Canoeing base for canoe slalom is at the multi-million dollar white water centre in Auckland. There are other young Cook Islands paddlers coming along behind Jane with aspirations of representing their country at an Olympics one day.

If CISNOC are not going to support these dreams with funding allocated specifically for Olympic Sports, should they all just hang up their paddles?

Sue Clarke

Response – CISNOC said members who have issues with the funding allocation and other concerns are welcome to attend a workshop held a week before their AGM.