Olympics delay boosts canoe medal hopes

The postponement of the Olympics will help the medal chances of Australian sprint canoeist Bernadette Wallace, who only took up the sport a few years ago.

The postponement of the Tokyo Games could lead to an Olympic medal for history-making canoeist Bernadette Wallace.

The 30-year-old was named in the Olympic team this week and will be one of the first two Australian women to compete in sprint canoe events, along with Josephine Bulmer.

Women's canoeing was added to the Olympic program as part of a gender equality push, with gold medal favourite Jessica Fox also set to fly the flag in the slalom discipline.

The IOC's announcement this week, that the Games will be delayed until 2021, could favour Wallace, who is younger sister of former Olympic kayak gold medallist Ken Wallace.

Wallace only took up canoeing, where athletes kneel and use one-bladed paddles, after missing Rio when her kayak selection hopes were wrecked with a melanoma diagnosis after the removal of a lump on her neck.

Her progress has been rapid - at the nationals earlier this month Wallace smashed the qualifying time, with her performance good enough to land her a place in the Olympic final.

She and 23-year-old Bulmer have only been a crew for just over a year and also believe they can also make up plenty of ground in the C2 event.

"Of course we would have loved to have the Olympics this year but there are a lot more important things in the world right now, and we're very aware because we're humans first and athletes second," said Queenslander Wallace, who is now based in South Australia.

"But now we have even more time to get in this boat and get good at it.

"We're a fairly new crew so any extra time is awesome for us."

Wallace said she was still fine-tuning the intricacies of canoe, which she described as a mix between Stand Up Paddle-board and outrigger canoe.

"We still need to learn how to steer a bit better, we can do starts a bit better and we're going to have another year to really mould into each other to hopefully aim for a podium," she said.

"Knowing we have that extra year, we're feeling very confident."

Australia only clinched one sprint canoe/kayak medal at the Rio Olympics, with Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame winning bronze in the men's K2 1000m.

Bernadette Wallace added that she felt medal chances for the team overall had improved, with many having a lot more international experience paddling together.

"They've now had so many years to work together now, while back in Rio they didn't have much time together as a crew," she said.

"They've had a whole extra four years to solidify their techniques, race plans, bonding as a team so as a team I'm looking forward to a strong performance."


AAP