Hundreds of young people from around the world will travel to Northern Ireland this summer to take part in the first ever Junior International Canoe Polo Championships at Knockbracken Reservoir in Carryduff, just outside Belfast.
The event which takes place from 2-6 August, will host over 500 young people and their support teams from 18 countries across the world, including Spain, Switzerland and France. One team will even travel the 8,000 miles from Namibia, to take part in the competition.
The event is the first of its kind in the world for junior participants (U-14, U-16, U-19) and is sponsored by Argento Contemporary Jewellery, the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, the International Canoe Federation, Ulster Canoe Polo Club and Canoeing Ireland.
The Ulster youth team will compete in the Championships, as well as teams representing Ireland and Great Britain. They were joined this week by Ulster Rugby stars Louis Ludik, David Busby and Craig Gilroy to launch the championships.
Argento owner Peter Boyle, from the Ulster Canoe Polo Club, will host the Championships at Knockbracken Reservoir in Carryduff. He has already submitted a planning application to turn the reservoir into an outdoor water sports centre in future, complete with cable park, canoe polo and glamping pods.
“We are really excited to be able to host these young people from all over the world so they can compete against each other in the Junior International Championships.
“As local people will be aware, we have plans in place to transform the reservoir into an outdoor water sports centre that will provide amazing facilities for families living locally and also bring new tourists into the area.
“The influx of young people and their supporters into Carryduff and the wider Belfast area this summer will demonstrate just how much this can be of benefit to the local area.
“It is a great honour to be able to host these junior international teams and hopefully everyone here will give them a very warm welcome when they come to visit and compete in the championships.”
Ashley Hunter from the Canoe Association for Northern Ireland (CANI), said:
“Although these Junior International Championships are taking place for the first time this year, we are confident it will be the first of many tournaments in the years ahead. The adult tournaments are very popular so we hope to replicate this success by hosting a world cup or world championship event in the future.
“Water sports and canoe polo is growing in popularity in Northern Ireland and this event will be a great opportunity to showcase the sport. The competitors have been training exceptionally hard and are looking forward to competing at home against the best in the world and we anticipate some local success. The Belfast Kayak Academy indoor kayaking pool has enabled the local competitors to train all year round, accelerating their preparations for this and other events.
“We are really grateful to the Ulster Canoe Polo Club and Belfast Kayak Academy for hosting the event this year and hope that participants will really enjoy their time here.”