SportsSunday Monitor

State woman kayaker makes a splash at national & global levels

Elizabeth Vincent from Umtham village has already won several medals, including gold, & Best Paddler title

Elizabeth Vincent, one of the two women kayakers in Meghalaya, is making a splash in the choppy waters. She has already won several medals, including gold, in many national and international championships, the latest being the Asian Canoe Slalom Championship in Rayong, Thailand, where she won bronze.

Elizabeth came to Meghalaya in 2011 and attended school in Shillong before her parents shifted base to Umtham in Ri Bhoi in 2015. The village, popular as Whitewater Village on the map of adventure sports in Meghalaya, became the workplace of Elizabeth’s father Ian Vincent, a recognised kayaker. Ian is instrumental in making Umtham a destination for whitewater kayaking and coaching local enthusiasts in the sport. He is also Elizabeth’s coach.


For the 25-year-old kayaker, the sport started as a recreational activity in 2016. “My dad told me if I train hard, I could go for competition, and that’s how I started competing. I got into the sport through my dad, who represented Australia at the world championships and now he is my coach,” she told Meghalaya Monitor.

Her first competition was the Malabar River Festival in 2019 where she won a gold in slalom and a bronze in downriver sprint. While the COVID-19 pandemic put a brake on sporting activities worldwide, Elizabeth continued with her medal haul once the new normal set in.

The kayaker from Meghalaya won bronze medals in the 2022 and 2023 Malabar River Festivals and the Best Indian Paddler title in the same in 2023. She also participated in the 37th National Games in Goa last year. She again won the Best Indian Paddler title at the 2024 Tawangchu Tides Festival in Arunachal Pradesh and grabbed the first and second positions in downriver sprint and slalom, respectively.

Recently, Elizabeth won bronze medals at the Asian Canoe Slalom Championship in Rayong, Thailand. She also participated in the Altai Slalom Cup in Russia this year.

“A great experience for me was to represent my country in Thailand for the Asian championship and it was a great challenge because I was new to the slalom kayak. I had only paddled Plastic Creek kayak but during the week I was there, I made progress and won three bronze medals even though I was new to this kind of event,” said Elizabeth.

“My ultimate goal is to represent my country at the Olympics,” she added.

Talking about the coaching centre at Umtham, Elizabeth said the locals who wanted to improve their skills came for the training and took the initiative to ready themselves for competition.

“So far, a number of them have competed at the national level, including Khelo India (silver medal) and National Games, and international kayak festivals. Several have got awards,” she said.

At the same time, the young kayaker added that for Meghalaya to produce more national and international talents in kayaking, a residential training academy is the need of the hour. There is also a need to improve the river course and obtain the latest equipment.

Though Meghalaya has a plethora of talents in kayaking and other adventure sports, infrastructure for training them at the national and international competitive levels is lacking. During the opening ceremony of the 5th Meghalaya Games in Tura, President Droupadi Murmu underlined the potential of adventure sports and adventure tourism in the North East, including Meghalaya, and the need to explore and leverage those on priority. Though the state government is leveraging adventure tourism, not much has been done to build infrastructure for adventure sports.

Last July, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma launched the Meghalaya Rafting program at Umtham to promote the sport in the state.

Facilities for kayakers across the nation also need to improve. Elizabeth observed that the prospects of Indian kayakers in the world arena are gradually improving. “However, India is still in the early stages of development. To improve their prospects, Indian kayakers need more access to world-class training facilities, coaching expertise, exposure to international competitions and funding,” she added.

When asked about women kayakers in the country, Elizabeth pointed out that women face “various challenges, including societal norms that discourage or limit their participation in adventure sports”.

~ Team Meghalaya Monitor

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