After months of discussions, USA Canoe/Kayak has formed a new partnership with the American Canoe Association (ACA), the oldest and largest paddlesport organization in the United States. As part of the agreement, Wade Blackwood, Executive Director of the ACA, will also take over as CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak.
“I feel like I'm the first grandchild of two great and influential families — and there are high expectations,” says Blackwood, “We want to create a fun and enjoyable path for anyone with an interest in paddling. Having the recreational and elite competition disciplines under a single leadership creates opportunities to build a pipeline of generations of great paddlers. Paddling is a healthy outdoor activity and many of the great elite paddlers started by enjoying a family canoe trip or having a great summer camp experience learning to kayak.”
From 1924 until USA Canoe/Kayak split in the early 1990s, the ACA assumed the roll as national governing body for Olympic paddlesports governing body. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, prior to the organizational split, the U.S. walked away with four medals, two in the Canoe Sprint discipline won by Greg Barton in K1 (Gold and Bronze) and two in the Canoe Slalom discipline won by Scott Strausbaugh/Joe Jacobi in C2 (Gold) and Dana Chladek in K1W (Bronze). There has been somewhat of a drought for the U.S. in Olympic paddlesport as only Dana Chladek (Silver Medal in 1996) and Rebecca Giddens (Silver Medal in 2004) have come home with hardware since the two organizations parted ways.
“There is an old saying that if you continue doing the same thing over and over again, do not expect different results,” says Bob Lally, USA Canoe/Kayak Board Chair, “When the ACA and USA Canoe/Kayak separated, a lot of our canoe/kayak disciplines stopped competing at the highest international levels. In order to change our results and outcomes, we have to dynamically and strategically change the culture and direction of our nation's paddling enterprise. Creating a partnership, once again, between the ACA and USACK is that dynamic and strategic change required for USA to compete at the highest levels in all canoe/kayak disciplines.”
One of the dynamic changes both organizations will undergo is sharing Mr. Blackwood as CEO. While unusual, this move does not concern Anne Maleady, ACA's Board Chair.
“Over the last four years the ACA has grown significantly by focusing on education and stewardship programs under Blackwood's leadership. The shared CEO role has the opportunity to give the millions of Americans who engage in recreational and elite paddlesports the ability to find programs of interest under a common organization. Whether its stewardship activities or healthy competition; our organizations will offer something for paddlers of all abilities.”
“Re-uniting the family of paddlers is a good thing. It's about time!” said Frank Havens, 1952 Olympic Gold Medalist. Needless to say, with Oklahoma City in the process of building a $42.5 million whitewater facility and playing host to the 2016 Olympic Team Trials for both Canoe Slalom and Canoe Sprintprint, the future of Olympic paddlesports in this country looks brighter than ever moving forward.
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation. It governs the Olympic disciplines of Canoe Sprint, Canoe Slalom, the Paralympic discipline of Paracanoe and sanctions Freestyle, Marathon, Outrigger, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak Polo, Dragon Boat and Canoe Sailing in the United States.