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INDIANAPOLIS (August 21) -- Michael Knight, president of the Sydney Organizing Committee (SOCOG), has just announced the inclusion of whitewater slalom as an event in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, pending approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"We are thrilled at the prospect of slalom returning to the Olympic Games," said United States Canoe and Kayak Team (USCKT) Executive Director Terry Kent. "It has been an amazing team effort that has gotten it this far. I am especially pleased for all the athletes whose Olympic hopes were dashed last year when slalom was taken off the program. I am glad they will have the chance to realize their Olympic dream."
Two members of the International Canoe Federation have been instrumental in leading the charge to have slalom reinstated on the Olympic program. Sergio Orsi, ICF president, was in Sydney on August 8th to present the ICFs final proposal for the inclusion of slalom events. 1992 Olympian Richard Fox of Great Britain has spearheaded the efforts of the Canoe Slalom Sydney 2000 Project to bring slalom back to the Olympic program. Fox has made several trips to Sydney, lobbying for slalom's cause.
"We are grateful for the efforts of Richard, Sergio and the ICF, along with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the entire paddleports community," said Kent.
SOCOG has also voted to include womens water polo for 2000. There is still a lot of negotiating to be done but we are hopeful that we can get these sports included, said Knight. The IOC will meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 5-7, where the final decision will be made.
Whitewater Slalom was on the original bid package Sydney put together to attract the 2000 Olympics. However, at a joint IOC/SOCOG Executive Board Meeting held in Cancun, Mexico on November 15, 1996, officials voted to drop slalom. SOCOG officials based their decision on the high cost to construct a whitewater facility, one they feared would have little use once the Olympic Games were over.
The slalom course at Penrith Lakes, the same venue where Olympic flatwater sprint and rowing events will be contested, was originally estimated to cost $12 million dollars. Sydney-based engineering company Pacific Power International put in a guaranteed bid to construct the course at no more than $6 million dollars. Penrith City Council and the ICF will each contribute $1.5 million dollars toward the project, and the New South Wales Government will provide the remaining $3 million dollars.
Construction is expected to take 11 months, with the new 300 meter long slalom course opening to the public in December 1998.
Additionally, Penrith City Mayor Kevin Crameri has confirmed that the Penrith City Council will manage, operate and maintain the facility after the Olympic Games have concluded.
SOCOG has set a limit of 10,200 athletes for the 2000 Olympics. The ICF modified its schedule to ensure there would be no extra canoe/kayak competitors at the Olympics. The total number of canoe/kayak athletes, both flatwater sprint and whitewater slalom, will stay at 350.
Whitewater slalom made its third Olympic appearance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga. The sport made its debut in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games but did not return to the competition program until the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
The U.S. has claimed medals each time slalom has been on the Olympic program. In 1972, men's single canoe paddler Jamie McEwan of Lakeville, Conn., claimed the country's first-ever slalom medal by winning the bronze. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics were golden for the U.S. as Joe Jacobi, originally of Bethesda, Md., and Scott Strausbaugh, originally of Dover, Pa., took the gold medal in men's double canoe. Dana Chladek, originally of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., claimed the bronze medal in women's kayak at the sam e Olympic Games. The return of the Olympic Games to the USA in Atlanta in 1996 also marked the return of Chladek, who this time took the silver medal in women's kayak.
The 1997 Slalom National Team will have little time to celebrate the news as they prepare for the 1997 Slalom World Championships, to be held on the Paranhana River in Tres Coroas, Brazil, September 25-28. 1995 World Champion David Hearn, Bethesda, Md., will look to defend his title in C-1. Hearn, 1997 C-1 National Champion and overall World Cup silver medalist, claimed the 1995 title in Nottingham, England, ten years after he won his first world title in 1985. 1997 overall World Cup Champion and U.S. National Champion Scott Shipley, Poulsbo, Wash., hopes to move up one spot from his 1995 World Championships finish of 2nd place.