The casual fan has probably only heard of a fraction of the various organizations that govern American Olympic sports, such as USA Basketball and USA Gymnastics.
But there’s another, its corporate headquarters tucked away in a former executive store near College Avenue in Fredericksburg. Founded in 1880, the American Canoe Association (ACA) became the official national governing body for canoeing, kayaking, and para-kayaking in October 2017.
The ACA’s primary mission is to promote the sports of kayaking and paddling, said Executive Director Beth Spilman. That mission got a big boost last week, when Nevin Harrison became the first American to win gold in canoe sprinting since the 1980s and the first woman to do so since 1964.
“It’s an absolute thrill,” Spilman said of Harrison’s triumph. “She was so masterful in a lot of her interviews because she spoke about how it would help popularize the sport in America.”
Case in point. Shortly after Harrison’s victory, Spilman received an email from a woman in Chicago.
The woman, a former marathoner in her fifties, couldn’t take the wear and tear of running anymore and was looking for a new endurance sport. Spilman helped her put her in touch with an ACA club in her area.
This is just one example of the impact Spilman hopes Harrison’s gold will have at the national level.