Canoeing at the Olympics: GB team, rules, sprint and slalom explained

Your complete guide to the rules, terminology and competitors in the Olympic's canoeing events.

Canoeing Olympics guide

Canoeing is rip-roaring back onto our TV screens at the Olympic Games with a stack of medals to be won across multiple disciplines and we’re on hand to help you make the most of it all.

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There are 16 medals to be won in total, with plenty of top candidates gunning for glory.

Whether you prefer the speed of the sprint or swerving of the slalom, there’s something for everyone in the canoeing events.

RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about canoeing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021.

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When is canoeing at the Olympics?

Canoe slalom runs between Sunday 25th July until Friday 30th July.

Once that wraps up, canoe sprint runs between Monday 2nd August until Saturday 7th August.

Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.

Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.

What are the categories for Olympic canoeing?

The Olympic canoeing events break down into a number of different disciplines. To start with, there’s a distinction between canoeing (kneeling in the boat with a single-bladed paddle) and kayaking (sitting in the boat with a double-bladed paddle). Next there’s the number of people in the boat – single, double or four in a kayak, single or double in a canoe.

Events are given labels such as C-1, K-2 which translate as ‘Canoe, one person’ and ‘Kayak, two person’.

There are 12 medals to be won in the canoe sprint events:

Men: K-1 200m, K-1 1000m, K-2 1000m and K-4 500m. Plus C-1 1000m and C-2 1000m.

Women: K-1 200m, K-1 500m, K-2 500m and K-4 500m. Plus C-1 200m and C-2 500m.

What is the Olympic canoe sprint?

The canoe sprints, meanwhile, take place on a calm, flatwater course that’s about 9 metres wide. Boats race each other down the course in a series of heats, with the top eight canoeists eventually contesting the final.

Sprint canoeists hit their top speed really quickly, making the race starts incredibly exciting. The shorter distance events can be over in as little as 30 seconds, making them primarily a display of speed.

Over longer distances, however, the ability to synchronise the work of everybody in the boat becomes more important, as does the tactical ability to judge when to make the strongest efforts.

What is the Olympic canoe slalom?

Fortunately, the canoe slalom makes it simpler than the sprint, with just four events, and four chances at gold:

Men: K-1 and C-1

Women: K-1 and C-1

Competitors in the slalom race down a whitewater course that features between 18 and 25 hanging gates they must navigate through in the fastest time possible. Two-second penalties are given for touching a gate, and there’s a 50 second penalty for missing a gate entirely.

The gates themselves are divided into downstream (green) and upstream (red). Upstream gates force the competitors to go against the flow of the water, and require them to have a keen eye for slower currents or calmer water which will make it easier for them to manoeuvre into the gates.

Which Team GB athletes will compete in the Olympic canoeing?

Team GB will be sending five canoeing athletes to Tokyo, including the reigning Olympic 200m kayak champion Liam Heath MBE.

Heath will be competing in the sprint category and will be joined on the team by four slalom athletes: Mallory Franklin in the single canoe, Kimberley Woods in the single kayak, Bradley Forbes-Cryans in the men’s single kayak and Adam Burgess in the single canoe.

Mallory Franklin is ranked 2nd in the world and is a strong contender for gold along with Australia’s Jessica Fox, while Heath is hotly tipped to win back-to-back gold medals.

The canoe slalom events will begin on 25th of July, while the canoe sprint events start on 2nd of August.

Read more – check out our comprehensive guides to the Olympic sports: Badminton | Equestrian | Fencing | Handball | Sailing | Swimming | Volleyball

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