Waka Ama Worlds cancelled due to COVID-19

By James Perry

The International Va’a Federation announced yesterday that the Waka Ama World Sprint Championships due to take place in Hilo, Hawai’i in August this year have been cancelled.

The IVF and the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association made the mutual decision to cancel the event citing the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the decision was not surprising, Waka Ama NZ CEO Lara Collins says it is still heartbreaking for the sport, “I think it was expected by everyone but obviously still receiving that information is difficult for some people and disappointing for all of those people who have trained really hard,” she says.

Held every two years, this year's World Sprint Championships had received an entry from 21 countries, including New Zealand, who were looking at taking a 530 strong team to Hawaii. Most of them had been training since well before the national championships held in January.

“I think they’re guttered. Really disappointed. They have been training really hard, nationals only a couple of months ago, feels like a lifetime so much has happened since then.

"But I think everybody understands that the decision was made in the best interests of everybodys' health and safety.

“That’s an awful lot of people. The feedback that we’ve received via social media and via e-mail has been that people have been obviously disappointed.

"But they understand that decision and it’s the right decision to make,” Collins says.

The IVF said in their statement the decision was made after taking a number of factors into consideration.

That includes the unknown timelines involved with the many travel restrictions now in place globally. It also recognises the number of Pacific Island nations involved who are “less equipped to deal with a health crisis”, and the member countries who are already impacted by the virus including host state Hawaii.

Since the announcement to cancel the Worlds, the State of Hawaii has confirmed 21 new cases, taking the total of cases in the Aloha State to 77.

As of 24 March, Aotearoa now has 155 cases of COVID-19. The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country, led PM Jacinda Ardern to go to threat level 3, and then level 4 on Wednesday 25 March. This means that the Aotearoa is nation, in isolation.

Lara Collins says the best thing for the Waka Ama community to at this stage is to take care of themselves and their whānau.

“Waka Ama is more than a sport, it is something that we all do that’s part of our lives.

"Whether we’re competing, or whether we’re paddling on the water, or whether we’re with our Waka Ama whānau off the water.

"Obviously there is peoples' immediate whānau that are impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and then there’s our Waka Ama whānau community that we all love.”

Despite the cancellation, Collins wants to reassure the 530 paddlers who were gearing up for the Worlds, and the rest of the Waka Ama NZ community.

“There will be another Waka Ama event, and there will be another Waka Ama world championships.

"Waka Ama NZ will be spending our time over the next few months to get ready for when this is all over and when we can hold some big regattas and get everyone back out on the water," she says.

With the cancellation of World Sprint Championships 2020, Collins says the focus will soon turn to London 2022.