GRUNAU, BERLIN, GERMANY – With the picturesque backdrop of kayakers paddling along the Spree during the National Games Berlin 2022, Special Olympics and the International Canoe Federation (ICF) signed a proclamation on 21 June 2022 committing to develop a long-term cooperation plan between the two organizations.
Kayaking is one of the emerging sports within Special Olympics, and this partnership will create more high-quality training opportunities to interested athletes around the world.
The proclamation is the newest in the line of over one thousand national and international sports federations who have aligned with the Special Olympics movement. Special Olympics believes partnerships like this will inherently strengthen its local kayaking programs and build its momentum as a rising sport within the movement around the world.
The ultimate goal? To realize true inclusion often comes to fruition by people coming together through the power of sport.
John Edwards, a member of the ICF Board of Directors and Executive Committee, said the ICF’s grassroots growth strategy centers around the spirit of inclusion, making this partnership a natural fit for both parties.
“There are thousands of paddling clubs throughout the world. This agreement will be an encouragement to each one of those clubs to become inclusive community centers of paddling for all members of their community,” Edwards said. “The ICF welcomes this cooperation agreement with Special Olympics and the potential to expand the number of Special Olympics members participating in our great sport.”
Lou Lauria, Chief of Sport & Competition for Special Olympics, echoed many of John’s sentiments.
“Special Olympics is pleased to partner with the ICF. The mission of the ICF is to get more people out on the water with paddles in their hands, and this inclusive approach aligns with the mission of Special Olympics, and this partnership will provide access and facilitate growth. Kayaking is a sport for all, and offers both competition and recreation opportunities. We are looking forward to developing this relationship for years to come and believe we will undoubtedly become a stronger organization because of our alignment with the ICF.”
Also in attendance at the signing were Special Olympics Germany kayakers Lisa Sieler and Diana Fiefs who both reiterated the importance of the sport in their own personal lives.
“To me, kayaking means to have fun and be with friends,” Lisa said. “And the best part is meeting new people—both those with and without intellectual disabilities—and training together in our boat.
Diana echoed Lisa’s sentiments.
“I feel like I am a member of a great family,” she said. “I get the opportunity to learn new abilities and grow. I believe I can accomplish great things!”
Kayaking will be prominently featured at the 2023 Berlin World Games, and because of this partnership, next summer’s competitions have the potential to be the best in Special Olympics history.