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Bittersweet day for Daniels, who doesn’t advance in Olympic debut of women’s canoe

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TOKYO – Canada’s Haley Daniels made history just by stepping into her boat on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old from Calgary didn’t advance out of Wednesday’s qualifying heats of the women’s C-1 canoe slalom at the sun-drenched Kasai Slalom Centre.

But women’s canoe is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo — finally — 85 years after men’s canoe was added to the Olympic program, and Daniels was among a group of female athletes who’d been fighting for its inclusion for years.

Daniels has been competing on the world circuit since 2009, and clinched her Tokyo berth in late May.

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She’d been among a group of international paddlers pressuring the International Canoe Federation for gender equity, and in 2017 the International Olympic Committee announced it was replacing some men’s paddling events with women’s. In sprint canoe, the women’s C-1 200 and C-2 500 replaced the C-1 200 and K-2 200 on the men’s side. In slalom, the men’s C-2 was removed in place of the women’s C-1.

Canada is a gold-medal threat in women’s sprint canoe. Laurence Vincent Lapointe is a 13-time world champion, while Katie Vincent recently edged the veteran at the Canadian trials. The two also have a pair of world titles together in the C-2 500 metres.

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Daniels’ dad, meanwhile, is also making history as an openly transgender official at an Olympics.

Kimberly Daniels had planned to come out as a woman after the Games, but when the Olympics were pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she arrived in Tokyo as a woman, with Haley’s support.

Father and daughter — Haley still calls Kimberly “dad” — made the announcement on Team Canada blog posts this past fall.

“The reason we chose to scream together from the roof tops is because we believe it is important to live as our true authentic selves and own who we are,” Haley wrote.

“Our family has never settled for mediocrity. We always strive for excellence in everything we do. I have been fighting for gender equality for most of my career and now my dad is a transgender woman.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.

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