Canoe sport competitions began in the mid-19th century. The Royal Canoe Club of London was formed in 1866 and was the first organization interested in developing the sport. In 1871 the New York Canoe Club was founded. The first women’s competition was organized in Russia. By the 1890s, canoe sport was popular all over the European continent. Since canoe sprints entered the Olympics in 1936, its events have changed and adapted to improve its overall standing and follow technological advances.

From North America to Polynesia, canoes and kayaks have had several historical uses.

Their designs varied, from canoes made of open bark to carved tree trunks. Used mainly for hunting and fishing, kayaks were made of animal skin stretched over a wooden frame.

Canoe and kayak racing became full medal sports at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. However, events were initially limited to canoe sprint until canoe slalom made its debut at the 1972 Munich Games. Slalom racing was not held again in the Olympic Games until the 1992 Barcelona Games. Canoe slalom racers compete in four events, three for men and one for women, over the same course.

64 Athletes (32 women and 32 men)

Women / Men / Kayak Sprint, Kayak Slalom, Canoe Sprint, Canoe Slalom (men and women)



There are qualification and final phases. In the qualification phase there are two rounds, in the final phase there are four, or five, rounds.


For the qualification heats, athletes are randomly paired and timed during the race. Times are measured to 1/100th of a second using a photo-finish system.


Letters K (kayak) and C (canoe) identify the boats. The number indicates the crew size, and the metreage refers to the distance of the competition.


In Canoe Sprint, athletes paddle on a circuit course, and compete head to head against each other.


In Canoe Slalom, athletes compete on a calm water surface as opposed to a natural river or artificial slalom course. However, they still need to demonstrate the skills of a slalom paddler by maneuvering around gates and beating the other athlete's time on the course.


Athletes finish the race when the bow of their boats crosses the finish line marked with red buoys.

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