Format of Olympic Kayaking Competitions

Canoe sprint as an event includes both canoes and kayaks. Olympic kayaking is done sitting, using a double-bladed paddle. Unlike the kayaks we use, these craft have a rudder controlled by athletes’ feet for steering. There will be a total of ten kayaking events between both men and women, including the two whitewater kayaking races.

Kayak sprints can be singles, doubles, and fours; they vary from 200 meters, 500 meters, to 1000 meters. All boats line up at the starting line—waiting suspensefully for the starting signal. They explode out of the gate and paddle as fast as they can to the finish line. There are called flatwater races, as they take place with no rapids or whitewater, on a straight, pre-determined course. The times it takes to complete depends on length and number of athletes. The fastest is the men’s singles 200m kayak at around 34 seconds, while the longest is men’s singles 100m at around 3 minutes 30 seconds to complete.

Slalom races are whitewater races. Men and women both have one singles slalom event. These races have paddlers navigating through gates places along a course filled with whitewater rapids. The course is approximately 200 meters long. Green and white gates must be paddled through downstream, and red and white gates must be paddled through heading upstream. Touching a gate adds a two second penalty to the course time, and missing one entirely adds a 50 second penalty. Each run takes anywhere from 90 to 115 seconds.

The slalom events consist of heats, semifinals, and finals. The heats give athletes two chances to rank heading into the semifinal, and semifinal and finals allow one run. The sprint includes heats, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Finals include A and B races.