By Kristy Koehler, January 22 2019 —
Calgary native Haley Daniels is a highly decorated canoer, but there’s one notable medal missing from her trophy case — an Olympic medal. Women’s canoeing will appear at the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo 2020, due largely in part to Daniels’s lobbying efforts.
“We basically had the same situation as the womens ski jumpers. The men were in the Olympics and the women were not,” Daniels said. “We put pressure on our national federation and our international federation […] to make a decision to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee.”
Why wasn’t women’s canoeing included prior to Tokyo 2020? Daniels argues that most of the reasons given weren’t legitimate, including that some people even thought paddling just wasn’t an activity women should be participating in.
“It started off that there wasn’t enough women in the sport to be gender equitable but the reason that there wasn’t women in it was because if you’re not an Olympic sport, you don’t get any funding,” she said.
It’s a vicious cycle that plagues female athletes — there aren’t enough women competing to fund them, but they can’t compete without that funding.
Daniels has been fighting since 2012 to have women’s canoeing included in the Olympic roster.
“Through a lot of lobbying and media exposure and athletes being true to their stories, continuing to put pressure wherever they could, we were successful,” she said. “The International Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation announced in 2017 that we would be an Olympic sport.”
Daniels doesn’t know whether or not she will be the athlete chosen to represent Canada, but she’s fighting for that opportunity.
“There’s only one person per country per category for our sport but I’m working really hard to try and get there,” she said. “It’s been my dream and it’s now so much bigger. It’s about leaving that legacy for future women to be able to break those barriers.”
Now, the real work begins for Daniels, and that involves funding her dream. This year marks the beginning of the Olympic qualification competitions.
“The first hoop we have to jump through is getting a continental spot. Not every country gets to go to the Olympics — only 22 countries get to go. So I’m fundraising for the season,” she said. “We have the Pan-Am games in Lima this summer and the Olympic qualifiers in Spain and then the training to get there.”
Daniels’s job as a high-performance athlete is full-time. She’s on the water almost every day — even in the snow and cold. In addition, she also maintains a job at a civil engineering firm. Her fundraising initiatives will help her raise the $50,000–$70,000 that she’ll need to continue training and attending the qualifiers.
On Jan. 21, Cold Garden Beverage Company partnered with Daniels to host the ‘It Takes a Village’ fundraiser. Hand-painted paddles made by a local artist were auctioned off in support of Daniels’s campaign. Her mission fit right in with the local brewery.
“When we were asked to host this fundraiser it was a no-brainer because Cold Garden and Haley have two important things in common,” said Dan Allard, co-owner of the brewery. “First, sport has always been important for Blake [Belding] and I, co-owners of Cold Garden. In fact, we met at U of C when Blake was playing football for the Dinos. Second, we love people that aren’t afraid to change the rules. Haley embodies sport.”
Cold Garden supports sport in the little ways a start-up brewery can. They offer snacks by donation in their taproom with the proceeds going to KidSport Calgary. They’re hoping to help Daniels make history.
“Her tenacity has helped elevate the Olympics by pushing to have her sport included officially at Tokyo 2020 for the first time. She has created her own possibilities and we’re honoured to be part of her journey to the Olympics,” Allard said.
“I do it because I love paddling but the fact that we can break that glass ceiling along with it is pretty awesome,” Daniels said.
Fans and supporters can help Daniels by buying T-shirts or making a donation. More information is available at haleydaniels.ca