Struggling against powerful roaring waters, eddies, swirls and stoppers; Canoe Slalom sees athletes battling the forces of pure nature. For many, Canoe Slalom is the ultimate challenge; a gruelling test of speed, agility and precision with all the excitement of whitewater rapids. Canoe Slalom translates brilliantly to the TV screen, and for spectators who are close to the river, the thrills are intense.
300m of excitement: Paddlers must navigate a sequence of gates in number order set up over challenging rapids, waves, eddies and currents on a 300m stretch of whitewater. The gates consist of pairs of poles, if the paddler touches a pole or misses a gate altogether then penalty seconds are added to their timed run (2 seconds for touching a pole with any part of their body, boat or blade, 50 seconds for missing a gate).
Different boat types: There are two boat types, Kayaks (K) and Canoes (C). In a Kayak the paddler sits and uses a double ended paddle. In the Canoe the paddler uses a single bladed paddle and kneels.
Different disciplines: There are Kayak events, for men and women, in single (K1) boats, and Canoe events in single (C1) and for men in double (C2) boats (the C2 category will no longer be in the Olympic Games after 2016).
Team races: In the team events, three boats (K1, C1 or C2) start together and the athletes decide who leads and who follows. The three boats follow each other and negotiate the gates in the quickest succession possible. The time of the run is recorded as the last boat crosses the finish line.
For men and women: Traditionally Canoe has been exclusively for men but there is a growing women’s contingent and Women’s C1 will be included as an Olympic discipline for the first time at the Tokyo Games in 2020, replacing the men's C2 discipline.
Joe Clarke made history at the Rio 2016 Olympics winning GB's first Kayak Gold Medal in the Men's K1. Following the Rio Games GB's Olympic medal haul in Slalom now stands at nine. 2016 was the most successful Olympics going one better than the Gold and Silver medals won in the C2 at London 2012.
The programme for Tokyo 2020 will consist of K1 and C1 races for both men (MK1 and C1M) and women (K1w and C1W).
Update from the Canoe Slalom International Panel
Since the rapid escalation of COVID-19 in March 2020 the canoe slalom international panel (IP) has been working hard behind the scenes to provide clarity for athletes in an ever evolving landscape and they now wish to share the 2021 selection process.
British Canoeing launches Paddle to Tokyo to mark a year to go
British Canoeing has marked one year to go until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by launching by launching its Paddle to Tokyo Campaign and new Tokyo hub.