2022 is a difficult year for many competitive athletes. Due to the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo by a year, the preparation time for the Games in Paris 2024 has been massively reduced. The post-Olympic year, which is actually used to develop professionally and to take it a little easier in sport, feels correspondingly intense.
The Berlin canoeist Jacob Schopf feels this in a very special way. The 23-year-old student teacher is trying to advance the non-sports part of the dual career as best as possible. However, this can only be reconciled to a limited extent with the new challenges as a competitive athlete: Schopf is the successor to Ronald Rauhe in the kayak foursome. After winning gold in Tokyo, he ended his career.
Coal phase-out, climate change, sector coupling: The briefing for the energy and climate sector. For decision makers
“It’s a completely different boat, even though I’m the only new person,” says Schopf. “We’re getting to where the boys were last year. But that takes time.” This week’s World Championships in Halifax, Canada, shows how far the quartet made up of Schopf, Max Rendschmidt, Tom Liebscher and Max Lemke has progressed. The team won the heat on Wednesday just ahead of Slovakia.
The reorientation in this German parade boat is tough – for everyone involved. Schopf started at the Olympics in ones, where he had just missed out on a medal in fourth place, and in twos with Max Hoff, who ended his career like Rauhe after winning the silver medal. As the strongest individualist in the canoe association (DKV), Schopf continues to paddle in one and at the same time has to get used to the new rhythm with three other colleagues in the boat. “In the end, it’s the whole package that counts. As in other team sports, you’re not good if you only have good individual skills, everything has to fit together,” says Schopf.
As a double starter, the two-time world champion has to control the training particularly intelligently anyway. For the 500 meters in a foursome, the load is one minute and twenty seconds or even slightly less. At 1000 meters in a single, the load is about three minutes and 30 seconds. “You have to position yourself broadly. It takes endurance and speed. All in all, a lot of effort and effort is required to train in such a versatile way.”
The load control is made even more difficult this year because only two weeks after the finals in Canada, the competitions of the home European Championships in Munich, which are part of the European Championships, are coming up. In August, a total of nine types of sport will select the best on the continent in the Bavarian state capital.
The fact that it is not that easy for some German athletes to set the right focus this year was recently shown at the World Athletics Championships in the United States. The very mixed performance of the German team with only one gold and one bronze medal was partly explained by the fact that the upcoming competitions are rated even higher in front of their own fans than the event in Oregon.
A difficult rating if Kayute Schopf has his way. “The competitions in Munich are important because the focus here is more on us, and friends and family are also present.” Not only because of the stronger competition, but because subsidies are also at stake here. Which are required for courses, for example.
The challenges are increasing in the face of ever-increasing international competition. This is a good sign for the World Canoe Association and its German President Thomas Konietzko, who previously led the DKV for a long time. It is the industry’s declared goal to grow in markets outside of Europe. “We have achieved a certain level of presence and popularity in Europe. We won’t be able to increase that much anymore,” says Konietzko. “The growth market is in Asia and North America. With the Los Angeles 2028 Games, it’s imperative for us to have more of a presence there.”
Although the World Championships will take place in Duisburg next year, the upcoming competitions in Canada are a clear indication of where the journey is headed. In the future, entire World Cup series may take place outside of the European continent, which means that Schopf and colleagues will have to travel long distances for competitions in the future. So far, athletes from other continents have had to make their way to Europe. “I don’t think the effort will be that much greater just because a World Cup is being held in Brazil or, as is the case now, in Canada,” says Schopf. “I’m not at home for two-thirds of the year anyway, and I’m not at the university either.”
In any case, the challenge of achieving the desired climate goals will be much greater. The International Canoe Federation (ICF) joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2021 and has thus committed to halving the ecological footprint by 2030. Water sports enthusiasts feel the effects of climate change almost every day.
“If you paddle to the edge of the lake during a course in Kienbaum, you can clearly see at the water line that the water level has fallen,” says Schopf.
The world canoe association would like to make a contribution to at least curbing climate change. This starts with shortening travel routes between each competition. This also includes organizing the transport of the equipment in a more environmentally friendly manner. A pre-booking system for bus transport will also be introduced for the first time at the Junior World Championships in September this year. “Previously, there were bus lines that drove from the hotel to the route every half hour from 8 a.m. in the morning to 7 p.m. in the evening,” says President Konietzko.
“Some buses were jam-packed and some were completely empty. We have now asked the teams to pre-book their departures so that we can target the buses and reduce the number of trips to what is really necessary.”
The German athletes in particular will still have to travel far away to training camps in winter if they want to be among the best in the world. “Anyone who puts their hand in the water in December will notice that it’s not exactly pleasant,” says Schopf. “In the cold season, you can’t do much work in terms of quality or quantity.” That’s why you have to escape from the cold. To Florida, for example, where particularly good conditions prevail. “We are aware of this environmental sin, but unfortunately it is unavoidable,” says Schopf.
Especially for him personally and the crew of the kayak four, every minute together is important “so that we can become a fast, functioning machine”. These days in Halifax, but also then on the way to Paris 2024.