The NZCT AIMS Games is set to grow even bigger in 2016, with the inclusion of canoe slalom as the 20th sport in the annual intermediate-aged tournament in Tauranga.
Less than a week after the brilliantly successful 12th running of the Games, Olympic kayakers Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones helped announce the addition, as they competed at the canoe slalom world championships in London.
More than 8000 athletes competed in Tauranga last week and Jones is excited that her sport is about to be exposed to a vast new pool of potential paddlers.
“Canoe slalom has always been strong in the Bay of Plenty region and we’ve got some really strong coaching and development programmes but this will really help boost the profile of the sport across the country,” Jones said.
It promises to be a big year for canoe slalom next year, with the opening of the WERO artificial whitewater centre in Auckland and the Olympics, which eight Kiwis are attempting to qualify for this week.
National canoe slalom head coach Aaron Osborne was delighted with the news, after leading a strong push to have it included.
“This is going to be where our next Olympians come from,” Osborne said. “Having a meaningful competition for them to strive towards is also going to do wonders for our junior development.”
The canoe slalom will be slightly modified for the AIMS Games, based on the Youth Olympic format using buoys on flat water instead of gates on white water. The event will be held at the Waimarino adventure park on the lower reaches of the Wairoa River.
AIMS Games tournament director Vicki Semple said canoe slalom added to the skill and vibrancy of the event, similar to what yachting did this year.
“The response from the sailing community was amazing this year and our canoe slalom supporters are equally passionate and enthusiastic,” Semple said. “It’s amazing that we’re up to 20 sports, with no sign of slowing down.”