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Dwight Corbin said he has been working on his Spanish-speaking skills and that will come in handy in his new role as the interim president of the Pan American Canoe Confederation (COPAC).
The Lake Echo native has taken the helm of the COPAC federation after the death of president João Tomasini Schwertner of Brazil due to COVID-19 complications on Jan. 17.
As first vice-president, Corbin assumes the leadership role until the next COPAC Congress is held to elect a new president. The congress is expected to be in June. COPAC features 30 countries, including Brazil, Canada, Cuba and the United States.
Right now, the biggest job we have is to try and determine if it’s safe due to COVID to have Olympic qualifiers.
- Dwight Corbin
Corbin has hit the ground running in his new position as the federation grapples with the decision to hosts Olympic qualifiers in Brazil.
“Right now, the biggest job we have is to try and determine if it’s safe due to COVID to have Olympic qualifiers,” said the 72-year-old retired teacher. “We’ve had numerous meetings with the international community of ICF (International Canoe Federation) and our group to determine whether our qualifiers will be held. The sprint is in April at Curitiba, Brazil and the slalom is in Rio at the beginning of May.
“We had a meeting this past weekend and we decided, with the encouragement of the ICF and IOC (International Olympic Committee) not to cancel (the qualifiers) at this point because they are trying to hang on as long as they can before any definitive answer regarding COVID is made. We don’t have a lot of time. The organization is not an issue, it’s the state of COVID at the time. Brazil is considered internationally by WHO (World Health Organization) as one of the hot spots. But they are endeavouring to create a safe bubble for all the athletes and officials, similar to what the NHL and those leagues did.”
Fortunately for COPAC, Corbin’s international resume is extensive. He is the former president of Canoe Kayak Canada and has been COPAC's first vice-president since 2007. He was a member of the board of the International Canoe Federation from 2011-2015. He also served as the Technical Delegate for Canoe Sprint at the 2011, 2015 and 2019 Pan American Games. He has also attended three Olympics in an official capacity (1996 Atlanta, 2021 London and 2016 Rio).
He said dealing with the qualifying events has been his main focus and hasn’t ‘given a lot of thought’ on a run at the presidency of the federation.
“I’ve been working with this group for 20 years and my term is coming up as first vice-president,” said Corbin. “I hadn’t really put any thought into moving forward. Besides the work aspect, it’s Latino, Spanish driven, so a lot of times the politics get involved. Do they want to have someone from North America who is mainly English-speaking? Although, my Spanish is improving.
“For the benefit of COPAC to receive continuity, it would be a good idea if I finished the (president's) term, but we will see how that evolves. As far as me, I have to contact the CKC (Canadian Canoe Kayak) because they would have to nominate me. I have about a month before I put my name forward if I am to do that.
“I haven’t made any definite plans because right now I’m chest-deep in this (qualifiers).”
If COPAC can hold the qualifying events, Corbin, a cancer survivor, doesn’t expect to attend.
“I have already stated myself and the head of the sprint committee is from the U.S., that we wouldn’t be going unless we receive a vaccine. And the likelihood of that is not very good at this time.
“I was scheduled to go and they wanted me to, but for my health and my family’s health, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”