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Jean van der Westhuyzen

Age

25

Place of Birth

Cape Town, South Africa

Hometown

Gold Coast

Olympic History

Tokyo 2020

Paris 2024

High School

Michaelhouse, KwaZulu-Natal

Career Events

Canoe Sprint Men's K-2 1000m

Canoe Sprint Men's Kayak Single (MK1) 1000m

 

Jean's Story

Growing up in Cape Town South Africa, a young Jean van der Westhuyzen watched his Australian sporting heroes, Ken Wallace and Murray Stewart on television.

He moved to Australia to pursue his dreams of becoming a canoe sprint Olympian and trained alongside those very same role models, hopeful of an Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.


Jean started as a marathon and sprint paddler, but since moving to Australia his focus firmly shifted to sprint racing.

In 2016, he claimed gold in the K1 1000 metres at the Junior Canoe Marathon World Championships, becoming the first South African male to win a medal at this level.

Representing Australia, he partnered with Riley Fitzsimmons, Tom Green and Jackson Collins to win the K4 500 at the U23 World Championships.

He also won a silver medal in the K2 1000m at the Under 23 World Championships, together with Collins.

Jean made his first senior national team in 2019 and finished 10th in the K1 1000 at the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.

In 2020, Jean and Tom won the K2 1000 in the first Olympic selection event. The pair won in an impressive time of 3mins, 12.27sec, which was 1.74sec ahead of London Olympic Champion Stewart and Rio Olympic medallist Lachlan Tame.

At the 2020 Australian Canoe Sprint Championships and second Olympic selection event, Jean finished second to Tom in the K1 1000 and K1 500.

The then 21-year-old joined forces with Tom to race the K2 1000 and the pair finished second behind Riley Fitzsimmons and Jordan Wood.

This set up Jean for an Olympic debut at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, competing in the K1 1000m and K2 1000m disciplines.

In the individual K1 1000m event, Jean narrowly missed out on automatic qualification for the semi-finals, coming third in his opening heat with a time of 3:46.186. He showed his determination for medal contention in the following quarter-final stage, blitzing past his competition to finish first with a time of 3:46.104.

Jean would, unfortunately, fall short of medal contention in the semi-finals. He came last in a competitive group and earned himself a place in the B Final. He recorded a best individual time of 3:26.287 in the finals, earning 13th overall place in the K1 1000m.

Competing alongside fellow Australian Tom Green in the K2 1000m, the pair would show their ambition in their opening heat to finish first with an impressive time of 3:08.773 earning, them an automatic spot in the semi-finals.

The pair would continue their dominance, finishing their semi-final once again in first place with a time of 3:17.077, the fastest of any pair in the event. 

The Aussie boys performed when it mattered most in winning the final with a time of 3:15.280, earning Jean his first Olympic gold medal in his debut Olympic Games.

Unfortunately, the K2 1000m event has been dumped for the Paris Olympic program, with the more explosive K2 500m in its place.

Good mates Jean and Tom have been targeting the new event in regattas in Australia and Europe, as well as racing against each other in the K1 500m.

“Both of us are racers. We race each other in training and when it comes to showtime, we want the best for each other, but there’s like a sibling rivalry,’’ Tom says of his friend.

The pair picked up bronze in the K2 500m at the 2022 world championships in Dartmouth, Canada. Jean won silver in the K1 500m in Dartmouth and repeated the performance at the 2023 world championships in Duisburg, Germany.

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