2008 American Open (Slalom Canoe) - Equal Opportunities & Rewards for Equal Commitment & Effort

Oct. 05, 2008, 6:57 p.m. (ET)

That was the theme for the 2008 American Open – Canoe Slalom (Whitewater) World Series event held at the Adventure Sport Center International October 3-4, 2008 – the last of 5 World Series events which offered prize money for winners.  Events were also held in Australia, Germany, Slovakia, and Slovenia.  This was the first year women’s canoe was offered, with entries in the American and Slovakian Opens.  However, there was no prize money offered for women’s canoe because it is not an Olympic Discipline.  There was $10,000 offered at the European events and $5,000 total offered at the American Open.
But, through generous private donations to USA WomenCan from donors across the U.S. and from the Eastern Mountain Sports Store in Arlington, VA (USA) the 2008 American Open


  • became the first Slalom/Whitewater event to offer women in canoe prize money;
  • offered the LARGEST prize money ever awarded anywhere in the world;
  • AND most important - the prize money for 1st place for women’s canoe was EQUAL to 1st place of all of the Olympic disciplines (K1 Men, K1 Women, C2 Men, C1 Men) .  

Congratulations to 14 year old dynamo and up-coming star Hailey Thompson (Wisconsin) for finishing first (and winning $500, plus a gift card from Eastern Mountain Sports) and veteran canoeist Carolyn Peterson for finishing 2nd and winning $250).  Carolyn is a many times US National Champion in various canoe disciplines and achieved some fame in 2000 when she tested the International Canoe Federation (ICF) gender equity waters by competing with Mark Poindexter in the C2 Men’s event at the US Olympic National Slalom Whitewater Team Trials.  Carolyn and Mark finished 5th earning the top spot on the National B Team.  When a crew from the National A Team could not compete at an upcoming World Cup event, Carolyn and Mark were the first crew to be moved up to the National A team, based on their rank.   But the ICF prohibited women from racing at international regattas, thus preventing her from competing.   But – her voice was heard on the water, and she and other women continue to paddle for equal opportunities.   Women in Slalom Canoe continue to have a voice through the leadership of Cathy Hearn – US National Slalom Canoe Coach and also a 3-time World Kayak Slalom Champion and 2-Time US Slalom Olympian.  Cathy grew up paddling C1 and is known and sought after throughout the world for her coaching and paddling expertise and her skill at teaching both coaches and athletes.  Thank you, Cathy, for your continued perseverance and dedication.
The prize money game for any Olympic discipline started in 2007 when CanoeKayak Canada teamed with Mazda Canada to hold the first international Mazda CanoeKayak 200 meter Knockout for Sprint/Flatwater canoe/kayak.  That event drew some of the top paddlers from around the world and offered significant prize money for the Olympic disciplines - $2,500 for 1st, $1,000 for 2nd and $500 for 3rd.   Mazda and CanoeKayak Canada generously offered prize money to women in canoe in that first year, in the amount of $100 for 1st, $50, for 2nd and $25 for 3rd.   And, again in 2008, the Knockout offered women’s canoe prize money, however the prize money stayed the same.
Considering the world class results for the C1 (singles) women’s event, which was just held Sept 12-14 in Toronto (http://www.canoekayak.ca/files/File/Mazda_CanoeKayak_Knockout_2008_ResultsByEvent.pdf, with what looks to be a world record for the C1 200 by Mallorie Nicholson), we hope 2009 will yield Equal reward for Equal effort.
To the generous U.S. private donors, Eastern Mountain Sports (Arlington, VA, USA), and Adventure Sports Center International, who made this American Open prize money possible for Slalom Women in Canoe – we at USA WomenCan thank you.  We know you believe in our Olympic dream.


  • To All Women in Canoe (Sprint and Slalom) – continue to Raise Your Game.  And, there’s nothing wrong with that T-shirt slogan “Paddle Like a Girl” (though “Half the Stick/Twice the Chick” is quite catchy).   It means that the day has come when women and girls have WOMEN as role models and want to do and be like them – and not always have to rely on men for a model to emulate.  Yes I want to shoot a basketball like Lisa Leslie, kick a soccer ball like Mia Hamm, throw a softball fastpitch like Jennie Finch, paddle a sprint kayak like Birgit Fischer, paddle a slalom Canoe like Cathy Hearn, and paddle a sprint canoe like Sheila Kuyper and Mallorie Nicholson.  So – raise your game – as you paddle forward to Olympic inclusion.
  • To the media, we challenge you to give equal space in print/on-line publications to Women in Canoe for equal time/effort on the water.
  • To all event organizers, we challenge you in 2009 to continue to offer Equal Opportunities for Women in Canoe, and, if prize money is offered, ensure Women in Canoe get their well-deserved money, too.



Pam Boteler
Executive Director, WomenCan

For more info on USA WomenCan click here.

For more information about the American Open and the Canoe Slalom World Series, and the Mazda CanoeKayak Canada Knockout
'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.'  ~ Aristotle