Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. 11th August, 2016. Ladislav Skantar (SVK) and Peter Skantar (SVK) celebrate their win.

Writer: Alyce Burnett | Sportscene

After the news that the C2 event will be removed from the Olympic program, the 2016 Olympic Champions from Slovakia spoke to Sportscene about how this decision will affect their sport.

In a bid to make canoe slalom more gender equal, the C2 event will be replaced by the C1 women’s event, making Cousins Ladislav and Peter Skantar the reigning Olympic champions forever. Ladislav is still coming to terms with this reality, saying that it has put a big dampener on their win.

“This is like a bad joke. It is amazing to win the Olympic Gold, but to know our category is not Olympic anymore, it brings sadness to our victory. This is not a victory when we know there are missing categories in Canoe slalom at Olympic Games. Maybe in 4 years, they will cancel C1 men and later maybe whole canoe slalom event, in this case we can’t enjoy our “leadership” in C2 category,” he said.

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Peter agrees with Ladislav, saying that this decision from the ICF has been misinformed.

“After 25 years of paddling together in C2 I definitely don’t want to change to C1. C2 is my heart and it will never change. Recent years have shown that this category has grown and incredibly settled and it is certainly very attractive for spectators to watch interplay of two athletes in one boat as it is completely different that other categories. The fact that this category will be removed, is very sad and I am terribly angry, and I have tears in my eyes because I think that this did not need to come, it is the failure of leadership of our sport, ICF and ECA down the line.”

Cousins Ladislav and Peter Skantar on their way to a Gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Whilst the pair acknowledge the sport needed to become more gender equal, they do not think removing the only double event was the best decision for the sport as a whole.

“To cancel category from the Olympics is probably very simple, but to find people who would be willing, rather than every year coming up with nonsensical rules and dealing with complete nonsense, trying to fight to ensure that this, in my opinion the most beautiful sport in the world was for spectators, sponsors and athletes much more marketing attractive, probably isn’t so simple and certainly I do not think that the exchange C2 for C1 women brings to this sport new spirit,” Peter said.

In addition to ruining their chances at defending their Olympic title, Peter spoke about the impact this will have on paddlers, their families and their livelihoods.

“This will destroy 15 and maybe even 20 years of efforts by some athletes who dedicated to this sport absolutely everything and often also all the family savings because parents did everything to their children to sports. All this effort is now just to throw away, yet they are fully unaware that for some, it means absolutely everything and for professional athletes in many cases living, because change to another category after so many years is absolutely unrealistic. This is not like sprint canoeing, when someone change for example from K1 to K4, where the technique of paddling is exactly the same.”

Calling it the most ‘beautiful’ discipline of canoe slalom, Peter believes that the ICF could have easily found a better alternative without ruining a whole category.

“I believe that our category did not have to be changed, on the contrary, C1 women could be added to the Olympics program,” Peter said.

“Why we do not think about how to make it more attractive? For example, as in swimming, there are 50-meter, 100, 200-meter tracks, which could be quite easy to do also in our sport where we can paddle on a third, half and whole course with different variations of gates. But we instead to make our sport more attractive and improved, we’re going to cancel category.”

David Florence and Richard Hounslow (GBR), Ladislav Skantar and Peter Skantar (SVK), Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche (FRA.)

This is why both Peter and Ladislav hope ICF officials hear their plea to reconsider this event removal, as they believe this is the beginning of the end of canoe slalom.

“If they read it, I would like them wholeheartedly ask that if they can still do something about it, let them think about it, because the way they do it, is not correct,” Peter pleaded.

“Now we cancel C2, in four years C1 men and C1 women who will have their premiere and also their last performance at the Olympics, so what is the significance of this exchange at all? In this case in eight years slalom won’t be slalom anymore and maybe will not even be on the agenda of Olympic Games. Therefore, I wish that in the future we all do for this sport maximum and try to help it as much as we can.”

Despite this decision, the Skantars are still hopeful the C2 will be reconsidered. Since the Rio Olympic Games they have continued to race in this event, with their latest victory at the 2017 Australian Open.

For an additional comment from Peter Skantar click here.

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