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In October, the slalom canoe course, located at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio’s western zone, welcomed 50 athletes from seven countries as part of an annual three-day Pan-American Championship.
It is hoped that the event, and subsequent use of the sports facility by the local community, will help grow the popularity and participation of slalom canoeing in Brazil and across South America.
“Our intention, in partnership with the Ministry of Sports and the City Hall, is to turn this venue into a great place to practice and to discover new talent in the sport,” said John Tomasini Schwertner, President of the Brazilian Canoeing Federation (ICF). “This is the first step to transform the Canal River into one of the main practice sites of slalom worldwide.”
The Pan-American Championship included the men’s K1, C1 and C2 and women’s C1 categories, and other junior and senior categories. The host nation enjoyed double gold success in the men’s and women’s K1, with Pedro Henrique Goncalves and Ana Sátila winning their respective events.
Gonçalves, who won a silver medal in last year’s Pan American Games in Toronto, and who finished in an unprecedented sixth place in the final of the men’s K1 slalom during the Olympic Games, Brazil’s highest ever position, said the course was "the best in the world,”. He now hopes others will be inspired.
" I want to take the Brazilian canoeing to the top of the world and inspire young athletes coming through,” said Gonçalves. "I'm sure we have hidden talents in the communities near the X-Park. With a place like this, a moment of leisure can be the first step towards a sports career.
There was further joy for the home nation in the men's C1, with Brazilian duo Charles Correa and Felipe Borges winning silver and bronze respectively. In the women's C1, Sátila returned to the water and added another gold while compatriots Charles Correa and Anderson Oliveira also won gold, and Maicon Borba et Carlos Moraes silver, in the C2. The Brazilian team won 11 gold medals in total.
With the post-Games legacy now under way, Schwertner is now looking to “turn Deodoro into one of the major development centers of world slalom canoeing," in an effort to attract more talent.
The Canoe Slalom venue was reopened to the public as a swimming pool in September, just weeks after the Games ended on 21 August. Deodoro also includes a BMX track and has been designed specifically to provide green space in the area and to give the local community more access to sport and leisure facilities.