The outgoing president of the International Canoe Federation, the Spaniard José Perurena, believes that the new Executive Board headed by the German Thomas Konietzko, “is a seal of guarantee”.
Perurena does not hide his satisfaction for the triumph of Konietzko, his vice-president since 2016, as his successor, when speaking to Around The Rings from Rome, where this past weekend the International Canoe Federation (ICF) electoral Congress was held at the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
Konietzko defeated Russia’s Evgenii Arkhipov by 94 votes to six to be elected the new president of the ICF. Perurena, meanwhile, was voted in as “honorary president for life.”
This Sunday, one day after the votes, in which 108 national federations participated, 60 in person and 48 from a distance, the new incumbent presided over the elections of the presidents of the different Commissions and Committees, a process that continued to strengthen the number of women in positions of influence within the canoeing family.
Germany’s Manuela Gawehn became the first woman at this level when she was elected to chair the Whitewater Canoeing Committee. The Executive Board also voted Hungarian Noemie Horvath as chair of the Stand Up Paddling Committee.
On Saturday, Argentina’s Cecilia Farias was re-elected ICF vice president.
Perurena highlighted the election of Konietzko, Farias, Spain’s Lluis Rabaneda and China’s Aijie Liu as vice presidents, all of whom have already served several years on the Executive Committee.
“I have been fortunate to have a Board with a lot of willingness to work and experience and, above all, team spirit,” he said.
Former canoeist Tony Estanguet left one of the ICF’s vice-presidencies to devote himself entirely to the head of the Organizing Committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Perurena highlighted the increase in the number of women on the Executive by nine and gender equality in the Olympic Program canoeing tournament as two of the achievements he most appreciates during his 13 years in the position.
“When I started in 2008, there were four medals on offer for women and 12 for men in the Olympics,” he said.
“In Tokyo we finally had eight and eight, the same quota. This was a great success for the ICF, because it was not easy to convince countries to make changes.”
This Sunday, more than a dozen women were elected to join the commissions of the ten canoeing disciplines.
Konietzko comes to the post after what he described as the most successful period in ICF history under Perurena’s leadership, praise that IOC President Thomas Bach delivered in a message to the audience at the opening of the plenary.
In his acceptance speech, Konietzko said one of his most important tasks would be to give the kayak and canoe family a united voice.
One of his first challenges will be an Olympic qualification plan for Paris 2024. The IOC expects to see the ICF’s proposal no later than February.
He said he will first ask the newly elected sprint committee and slalom committee to discuss the principles of the qualification system. “With that step I hope we can avoid having another argument before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or among ourselves, about the interpretation of certain qualification criteria.”
Konietzko already has a list of propositions to discuss at the ICF Board in March. He wants to appoint continental representatives for Africa, the Americas and Asia to assist the national federations in those regions .
“There are many issues we need to discuss: governance, television strategy, sustainability, an internal communication strategy, and a safeguarding and welfare strategy for our athletes, to name just a few,” he commented.
A kayaking competitor at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Perurena, now 76 years old, felt he was fit to continue in the position. Even the ICF statutes do not set a time or age limit. “But I had to be consistent with what I have preached: maximum, three terms,” he told Around the Rings.
Today he is credited with boosting the popularity of canoeing, especially during his time as an IOC member between 2011 and 2019.
Since 2014 he has headed the International World Games Association. “I will be from November 28 to December 4 in Birmingham, Alabama,” confirmed the Spaniard. In the U.S. city he will lead summit meetings in preparation for the mega-event with more than 100 nations that opens on July 7, 2022.
Not a few consider that he contributed to raising the level of all forms of canoeing, Olympic or not, and that he played a key role in the sport’s entry into the Paralympic Games.
When asked what his duties as honorary president will be, he mentioned first and foremost the following: “Not to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong”.