For the first time ever the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will feature canoeing for women, with Australian doubles team Bernadette Wallace and Josephine Bulmer heading to qualifiers in Hungary in August.
But the debut appearance of the women's canoe events has been filled with controversy.
To make way for the introduction of women's classes, two events from the men's program have been removed, with some male athletes unhappy about the changes, according to Wallace and Bulmer.
"The loud, negatives voice were crazy," Wallace said this week from Germany, where she and Bulmer are racing in the Canoe Sprint World Cup. "When I was coaching the Australian junior team one year, I saw this kid from another country walking around who had 'say no to women's canoe' on his shirt, in front of his female teammates that were racing."
One "joke" in particular began to circulate around the sport according to Wallace, a cruel taunt about the "ugliness" of a woman steering a canoe.
"Even on one of Josie's photos online, there was this little troll conversation of like 'wow that's ugly'," she said. "And to me it's ridiculous. It's a boat!"
Many of the top-tier female canoeists are in Germany along with Wallace and Bulmer, preparing for what they hope will be their own Olympic debuts. Wallace said the vibe among the Tokyo hopefuls competing for a maiden Games berth was incredible after "fighting this situation" for so long.
"Last night I was sitting with the world champion, just mucking around … they're just so happy to see you. We made it to the race," she said. "They are even giving us help … trying to help your competitor with their technique is pretty incredible."
Wallace, 30, has had her own story of triumph, picking up the paddle once again for the Olympics after her bid to make the Rio Olymipcs in 2016 in kayaking was cut short due to melanoma.
Having made the switch to canoeing and moved from the Gold Coast to Adelaide to join 23-year-old Bulmer six months ago, Wallace says that while she may not be able to "perfect" the sport by the Tokyo qualifying event in August, she is getting the hang of working with her new partner.
"In some ways, it's quite good that I've never really trained with anyone else because the only way I'm going to know how to paddle is behind her," Wallace said. "Her technique, her timing, it's the only thing I've known."
Due to their substantial height difference they have been nicknamed the "Twins", after the Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger characters in the 1988 film of the same name.Read More – Source