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Jean van der Westhuyzen paddles towards Olympic selection with a sun safe sprint

20 February 2024

Olympic gold medal winning canoe sprinter Jean van der Westhuyzen is proof sun safety doesn’t slow you down with the sun safe 25-year old edging closer to a second Games wearing a hat, sunnies and plenty of sunscreen.

Jean and Tom Green paddle wearing hat and sunglasses.
Olympic champion canoeist Jean van der Westhuyzen (right) embraces sun safety alongside Tom Green (left). Image source: Paddle Australia.

Sun safety is easier said than done when you spend most of your time training and competing outside, but for Olympic sprint canoeist Jean van der Westhuyzen, taking measures to reduce the risk of skin cancer is a no-brainer.

“I spend two to three hours in the sun every day for training, so it’s important I cover up as much as possible. I always make sure I paddle in a hat, sunnies, and a long sleeve shirt when I can, and use plenty of sunscreen,” the 25-year-old said.

Van der Westhuyzen, who wore a visor and sunglasses as he and Tom Green crossed the line to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, had his sun safe kit on hand again when the pair took out the K2 500 race the recent Canoe Sprint Grand Prix 2 and Oceania Championships in Sydney.

“Being sun safe is so important for outdoor athletes, especially for those of us who spend so much time out on the water – it can be brutal for your skin.”

The Gold Coast local joins Paddle Australia teammates Curtis McGrath OAM and Jamie Roberts in support of the AIS Sun Safe Position Statement, an initiative aiming to reduce the risks of skin cancer in sport.

Developed alongside Paddle Australia, Cancer Council, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the Position Statement provides recommendations for sporting organisations and athletes like Van der Westhuyzen to minimise damage from sun exposure.

As the canoe sprinter’s on-water training ramps up in pursuit of back-to-back Olympic gold medals, van der Westhuyzen said sun safety will remain a top priority.

“Our health should always come first above everything else, so it will be slip, slop, slap and long sleeves for me over the next five months.”

Learn more about the AIS Sun Safe Position Statement.

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