COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Olympic national governing body for canoe and kayak has had its funding slashed by the U.S. Olympic Committee -- a big-time blow to the chances of Americans winning their first Olympic sprint title since 1988 as they prepare for the 2012 London Games.
Resources for USA Canoe/Kayak's sprint national team were cut by the USOC in another round of cost-saving measures the Colorado Springs-based organization justified through the lack of Olympic medals -- and the bleak potential -- for Americans in paddle sports.
Stipends for 38 summer NGBs haven't been made public by the USOC, which approved grant amounts last month at a board meeting in Redwood City, Calif. Summer NGBs overall will land more than they did in 2007, when total NGB funding equaled $54.5 million -- USA Canoe/Kayak got $863,777 in 2007, and it got $920,382 in 2008 and $595,179 in 2009.
USA Team Handball has filed an appeal to the USOC of its 2011 resource allocation, in hopes of getting more money to send a men's squad to Guatemala City for a second-chance qualifier for the Pan American Games in October in Guadalajara, Mexico. Meanwhile, rumors still swirl over the financial health of USA Pentathlon, which appears in danger of discontinuing its Olympic Training Center resident program.
USA Canoe/Kayak chief executive officer Joe Jacobi hopes to keep sprint programs and coaches in place heading into Olympic qualifiers -- the result of meetings with the NGB's eight-person board, chaired by David Backer, as well as consultations with regional clubs and a trip to Hawaii, where he talked to sprint national team coach Guy Wilding.
Jacobi reported USA Canoe/Kayak enjoyed a 25 percent increase in participation, with a spike in teenagers, at the sprint national team trials in April in Chula Vista, Calif. And the NGB, with help from former Olympic coach Bill Endicott, launched a Washington-based national talent identification program to bring developing athletes to the sprint and slalom disciplines, and played a role in propelling women's canoe into the world championships.
Among USA Canoe/Kayak's main objectives in its strategic plan is to "support a national team that consistently produces winning performances at international competitions." The U.S. men have five Olympic medals in sprint races, most notably a gold in the K-1 1,000 meters by Greg Barton and a gold in the K-2 1,000 by Barton and Norman Bellingham in 1988. The U.S. women own two Olympic medals in sprint, none since 1964 and no golds.
Creating "more opportunities for corporate partners" is a top goal of Jacobi, whose NGB, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has several big-name sponsors in AT&T, Nike, United Airlines and 24 Hour Fitness but hasn't pulled near the same level since Bank of America ended a deal that paid $150,000 in 2008. USA Canoe/Kayak closed 2008 at $454,764 in net assets, according to its latest audit, spending $1 million that year on Olympic teams.
Jacobi said the USOC's funding cuts "can be viewed as challenges to our mission. But no matter how seemingly insurmountable these types of challenges appear, they inspire us to step up, create solutions and take action that will put our organization on a better track."