Monday, 08 August 2022

OBE for man behind British Canoeing medals

THE former chief executive of British Canoeing was awarded an OBE for services to the sport.

THE former chief executive of British Canoeing was awarded an OBE for services to the sport.

Paul Owen, 56, from Wargrave, joined the organisation in 1992 when it was struggling and later helped bring about the introduction of canoeing at the Paralympics.

He left in June and now runs his own sports management consultancy.

Mr Owen lives in Langhams Way with his wife Tamsin Phipps, 56, a full-time volunteer for the Canal and RiversTrust, and daughter Amber, 19, a student at Brunel University.

He grew up in Goring, where he was first introduced to canoeing on the River Thames. He also played football and took part in athletics.

Mr Owen said: “I’ve had a lifetime involved in sport and my two main sports were athletics and canoeing.

“I was always a better runner than canoeist but, growing up in Goring, we always used to canoe and sail on the river so I grew up loving the sport.

“I was also involved with the Devizes to Westminster canoe race as a volunteer and that’s where I met my wife as she has won it three times.”

When he joined British Canoeing in 1992, he was asked to look at the books. Mr Owen said: “My work background was in banking and accountancy and through my consultancy I picked up a job to sort out the finances at British Canoeing. Over time I stayed on and eventually became chief executive.

“When I first got involved there were 10 members of staff and the finances weren’t very good. There are now 125 employees, a healthy balance sheet and canoeing has become one of Britain’s most successful sports.”

Under Mr Owen’s stewardship, Team GB canoeists won 13 Olympic medals and seven are world champions. He also helped organise five canoe world championships and increased media coverage of the sport.

He said: “When I started I never thought I would be there for 23 years. Canoeing is such a growing sport and there was always a fresh challenge each year. The culmination for me was leading the sport to London 2012. That was fantastic — it doesn’t really come better than that.”

He left because he wanted a new challenge. Mr Owen said: “I wanted to do something new. We are well on the way to Rio and I got to the point where I thought either I’d be there for the rest of my life or I could look for a new challenge.

“Now I’m doing consultancy and looking forward to that challenge.”

Mr Owen said he was looking forward to receiving his OBE from the Queen.

He said: “When the letter arrived I had no idea what it was. It came the day before my wife’s birthday and it was quite exciting.

“I’ve been very lucky to work with a great bunch of people and while I feel humbled, it’s the work of all those people which has gone into this.

“I’ve been on several occasions to both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for the National Olympic Committee, which I’ve been involved with for about 20 years.

“The Princess Royal is president of the committee and I’ve also met the Queen a couple of times before.”

• Annamarie Phelps, the chairman of British Rowing, was made a CBE for services to the sport. The former Olympian became only the second woman in history to be elected a steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 2002. She has held her current post since February 2013. Mrs Phelps said she was “thrilled and delighted” to receive an honour.

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