José Perurena’s successor seemed a given, but world canoeing will have to decide between two candidates for the federation’s presidency

After three terms, outgoing president José Perurena wants the new Executive Board to fight for sea kayaking’s entry into LA 2028 or Brisbane 2032.

José Perurena and Thomas Bach at the Tokyo 2020 Games
José Perurena and Thomas Bach at the Tokyo 2020 Games

It seemed that Germany’s Thomas Konietzko would be the sole candidate for the presidency of the International Canoe Federation (ICF), but at the last minute, businessman and president of the Russian Federation, Evgeny Arkhipov, appeared.

“I decided to run. There are always possibilities, you just need to use them correctly,” said the St. Petersburg-born executive. The elections will be held just a month from now at the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in Rome.

Konietzko, also a businessman, has been vice president of the International Federation since 2016, after holding the same position at the European Canoeing Association.

For the outgoing president, the Spaniard José Perurena, the situation of the two aspirants is new, because during his three consecutive mandates he was always the only candidate. Perurena was first elected in 2008.

Speaking to Around The Rings from the Spanish region of Asturias, where he had come from his native Madrid for his annual veterans’ competition in the descent of the Sella River, the federation leader did not speak of any favorites in the upcoming elections.

The place is no stranger to him: in 1964 he won the International Descent in kayak in pairs, four years before enlisting as a member of the Spanish K4 in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

But it’s no secret to anyone that Konietzko has been preparing himself as the logical successor to Perurena over the years.

“For me, what is really important is that a strong Executive Board is elected to face the next Olympic cycles at the level of the change of pace set by the IOC,” he commented.

The hope of Perurena is to see sea kayaking on the Olympic program for Los Angeles 2028 or Brisbane 2032 in the future.

“I would have wanted that discipline in the Olympic Games. I know it was very difficult, but I do not lose hope that the new leadership will achieve it,” added Perurena when talking about a pending goal after his 12 years in office.

But aside from this aspiration, the ICF president is credited with having boosted the popularity of canoeing, especially during his time as an IOC member between 2011 and 2019. As a leader, moreover, he presided over the Spanish Canoe Federation between 1984 and 2000, and since 2014 he has headed the International World Games Association.

Among other achievements, we should also note the boost in equality between men and women by achieving the same number of medals for Tokyo, and raising the level of all forms of canoeing, Olympic or not.

Promoting the sport’s entry into the Paralympic Games and encouraging the presence of women on all Committees, including vice-presidential positions in the International Federation, could also be mentioned in his legacy.

He had to juggle in order to try to achieve a program for Paris 2024 with quality, attractive and universal in the face of the restrictive parameters demanded by the IOC, and in which he managed to include the Extreme Slalom.

The ICF Congress, which was postponed twice in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, will be held from November 4 to 6 in person and virtually as it is estimated that the current restrictions could still complicate the attendance of national federations. The ICF has 171 members.

The last day will be dedicated to the elections which, in addition to a new president will determine three vice presidents and 10 other seats.

“We are happy,” said Perurena alluding to the results achieved in Tokyo Bay and the Olympic debut of the women’s slalom canoe. A scenario where there were also no complaints or cases of doping.

“I have been linked to canoeing for 60 years,” insisted Perurena. “We sports leaders must know when it’s time to step aside,” although he acknowledged that physically and intellectually he feels fit at age 76 to continue for four more years.

Perurena remarked that he will always be willing to continue helping: “I’m not going to Mars, I’m still on Earth”.