On March 5 2014 the USA Canoe/Kayak Committee awarded Polo Head Coach Stephen Gale the annual Havens Leadership Award. Col. Deborah S. Page and Jan Whitaker were also recipients for their support in the United States Paracanoe program and advocacy of the Paralympic Movement.
The USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the United States Olympic Committee, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and the Pan American Canoe Federation (PACF).
USA Canoe/Kayak is also the national governing body for the Olympic sports of Flatwater Sprint and Whitewater Slalom as well as the Paralympic sport of Paracanoe. Other paddling sports sanctioned by USA Canoe/Kayak include Dragon Boat, Freestyle, Marathon, Surfski, Wildwater, Outrigger, Polo, Canoe Sailing and Stand Up Paddleboard.
“The USA Canoe/Kayak offers athletes the opportunity to win Olympic medals in up to 16 events, the sixth most of any sport.” Paracanoe happens to be one of those events. As a result of the USA Canoe/Kayak, along with thousands of others, Paracanoe will make its inaugural appearance at the Paralympic Games in Rio, 2016.
Part of the USA Canoe/Kayak philosophy is that it doesn’t matter “Whether you are just getting into paddling or have been for many years, you have an opportunity to represent your country in the sport we love." Therefore, paddlers from around the world will have the opportunity to compete regardless of their abilities.
The Havens Leadership Award rewards individuals whose practices and behaviors best serve the interests and success of USA Canoe/Kayak. The award is named after the Havens family.
U.S. Olympic women's water polo team
The U.S. Women’s Polo Team qualified for the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia, by finishing tops among teams in the Americas at the 2012 World Championships. In Columbia, they finished 0-6 against the best teams in the world. Giselle Nguyen, Katherine Homann and Molly Cummings tied for first in scoring for Team USA with one goal apiece.
(Gale & Women's Kayak Polo Team)
Stephen Gale is recognized for his role as Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s Kayak Polo team that qualified for and competed in the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia, July 25 – Aug. 4. The U.S. women’s team had never before qualified for a World Games.
A native of Canmore, Alberta, Gale helped the Team USA qualify for the World Games and recorded its best finish at a World Championships. The U.S. defeated Canada at the 2012 Polo World Championships to becoming the highest-ranking team from the Americas. In Colombia, the team would finish 0-6 against the best teams in the world.
“Steve has dedicated so much for growing U.S. Kayak Polo, improving its performance and respect worldwide. Coaching the U.S. women’s team for the past several years, he set a high standard for training and strong team dynamics,” said team member Katherine Homann. “His commitment even in the face of personal sacrifice … truly shows what it is to believe in a dream? He is a leader who continues to inspire us, and who has earned not only respect for a team, but respect for the USA and its continued success in Kayak Polo.”
Debby Page and Jan Whitaker share the Havens Award recognition for their joint efforts in building the U.S. Paracanoe program from the ground up. Both have served voluntary roles as coaches, advocates and team leaders. Together, they helped the U.S. win four medals at the 2013 Paracanoe World Championships, quadrupling its medal haul from the year before.
Off the water, they helped lobby successfully for Paracanoe's inclusion in the 2016 Paralympic Games. Whitaker initiated the Paralympic pitch in 1998. Over the years, Page served as a team coach, coordinator, representative, and cook, while also serving as a race official.
Page competed internationally in the 1960’s, including being named to the 1966 U.S. World Championship Team. She also reached the rank of the colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
Debby Page: “I am thrilled with my selection for the Havens Leadership Award. I've often wondered if people realize how much blood (literally), sweat (not nearly enough) and tears (way too passionate about the sport for my own good) I have put into our sport since I first took an Olympic sprint kayak for a paddle and swim on 11 August 1961 at Washington Canoe Club. … I've been working on adaptive paddling since Mac Hickox asked me to take it on with zero budget in May 2008 when Paracanoe as a Paralympic sport was just a distant hope.”
Team member Kimberly Parker: "The World Games in Cali was one of the biggest challenges that I have faced in the years I have been a member of the US Women’s National Kayak Polo Team, but it also served as one of the biggest growth opportunities as well. The team was faced with a chance to play the top five women’s kayak polo teams in the world all within a short, two-day period. This competition helped to build the team’s resolve and showed the world how far our small discipline has come in the United States. The entire experience was once in a lifetime and the opportunity I had to represent my country in this event is an honor I will never forget."