Oklahoma City may be the relocated home for canoe slalom competition during the 20208 Olympic Summer Games, the International Canoe Federation has confirmed.
The International Canoe Federation said during its 2022 Congress in Thailand that the canoe slalom competition for the 2028 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles could be moved out of the state and hinted that it would be relocated to the Riversport Rapids whitewater center. What at the time was raised as a possibility may become more than that, the ICF has said.
“I can confirm that we are continuing to hold discussions with LA28 regarding options for a host venue for canoe slalom for the Olympics,” Ross Solly of the International Canoe Federation told Fox 25 television in Oklahoma City. “As you will know, we have already had several events at your excellent Oklahoma facility, and are in close contact with venue management and American Canoeing to ensure if this is the option that is decided, it will meet all the requirements as specified by the IOC. We are hoping to have a decision very soon.”
The TEAMS ’22 Conference & Expo/SportsLink Session “Rising River: How Oklahoma City Became an Olympic and Paralympic Training Site” detailed how Riversport OKC, an organization created in 2005, has turned downtown Oklahoma City into a canoeing, rowing, rafting and kayaking destination.
“There are only two slalom venues (in the United States) that can host elite competition and Riversport is one of those,” American Canoe Association Executive Director Beth Spilman said at the session, noting the other is in North Carolina. “What’s also unique is Riversport can also hold a sprint competition at the same venue, which is the only place that can do both of those events in the same locale. … We’ve been able to attract a lot of international events to Oklahoma City.”
The Riversport complex is well-known to the ICF as well. Riversport OKC hosted the 2021 International Canoe Federation Super Cup and when the ICF needed a last-minute replacement host for the 2022 Canoe Sprint Super Cup and the 2022 ICF Stand Up Paddling World Cup to relocate the event out of Russia, the Oklahoma venue hosted on short notice. Riversport will also host the 2026 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.
“If you had thought of one of the premier venues for canoe and kayak, would you have thought of Oklahoma City?” Riversport Executive Director Mike Knopp said during the session at TEAMS. “People generally around the world don’t associate Oklahoma with water. … We’re in the culture-building business here. We want to help develop an outdoor culture in Oklahoma City. We’re building the spark for that.”
“There’s no other environment like this for our sport in the country,” said Reilly Dampeer of the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center. “This place outside of the college system is by far the best environment to train for the next level for our athletes. With the resources we have for athletes to the strength and conditioning coach to sports psychologist, it’s just about the environment for the athletes that is really unique.”
LA28 had proposed the canoe sprint events be held at the Long Beach Marine Stadium after first proposing Lake Perris in Riverside County. The last Summer Games held in the U.S. was Atlanta 1996 in which the canoe slalom events were at the Ocoee Whitewater Center in Ducktown in Tennessee.