Kayaking, Canoeing & Rafting

Canoeing & Kayaking in the Olympics | Rio 2016 Events

Everything you need to know about the whitewater events at the Olympics

Olympic canoe and kayak events are something that Team GB has performed well in over the last few years, despite having a fairly abysmal historical record when it comes to paddle sports. With the likes of Timothy Baillie, Etienne Stott and Ed McKeever bringing home Gold medals at Lee Valley in London 2012, hopes are high for Britain’s performance in the whitewater stadium at the Rio 2016 Games, and there are several strong Team GB medal contenders in canoeing.

Olympic canoe and kayak events are spread over two different disciplines, slalom and sprint, with both singles and doubles events in some classes. If you want to find out more about these different competitions and who will be representing Team GB in each discipline then look no further – this is everything you need to know about the Olympic canoe and kayak events at Rio 2016.

Photo: – David Merrett

Everything’s A Canoe?

As a sport, both canoe and kayak events come under the same name at the Olympics. Canoe Slalom refers to both the canoe and kayak slalom events while Canoe Sprint covers canoe and kayak sprinting.

Canoeing & Kayaking in the Olympics | Classes

Each discipline has several classes, indicated by a letter and a number. The letter indicates which kind of boat will be racing and the number tells you how many athletes will be in each boat. So K1 would be a single athlete racing a kayak while C2 would be two athletes in the same canoe. Classes are also further divided into men’s and women’s events.

Photo: Rapid

Canoeing & Kayaking in the Olympics | Canoe Slalom

Photo: – David Merrett

When: August 7-11

Where: Whitewater Stadium, X-Park, Deodora

What Are The Rules?: Athletes compete to be the fastest boat to navigate a series of gates placed along a 250m long whitewater course. Gates are made of two poles hung side by side from wires above the river and come in two colours, red and green. Green striped gates have to be passed through heading down stream while red striped gates, usually placed in eddies where the current runs back up the river, have to be passed through heading up stream. Each gate also has a number and must be travelled through in numerical order.

To successfully pass through a gate both the athlete’s head and part of their boat must pass directly between the two poles. If a canoer or kayaker touches the pole with their body, paddle or any piece of equipment then they incur a two second penalty. Knocking a pole more than 45 degrees, going through a gate upside down, missing gates or going through them in the wrong order all earn you a 50 second penalty which is usually enough to put you out of the running. If you manage to cause more than one penalty on a single gate only the most serious one counts.

Canoe slalom events start with heats followed by semi finals and then finals. In the heats, each canoer or kayaker gets two runs down the course with their best run counting as their qualifying time. After the heats a new course is set up for the semi final, often keeping some elements of the heats course. Athletes get just one run in the semi finals to secure their place in the finals, where they will get one more run down the same course to decide the winner.

In canoe slalom events competitors use a single bladed paddle and there are competitions for both one and two athlete boats. Kayaks only have single athlete competitions where each competitor uses a double bladed paddle to navigate the whitewater rapids.

Who Will Be Competing In Canoe Slalom For Team GB?


David Florence and Richard Hounslow already have 3 Olympic Silver medals between them. The pair will be hoping to add a couple of Golds to that tally this year when they compete in the Men’s C2 and Florence is doubling his chances of top honours by taking on the challenge of C1 as well.

C1 Men’s – David Florence

C2 Men’s – David Florence and Richard Hounslow

K1 Women’s – Fiona Pennie

K1 Men’s – Joe Clarke

Canoeing & Kayaking in the Olympics | Canoe Sprint


When: August 15-20

Where: Lagoa Stadium, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Rio De Janeiro

What Are The Rules?: Canoe and kayak sprint events are a straight race, competing on flat water divided into lanes. Sprints take place over 200m, 500m and 1000m distances with 1, 2 or 4 athletes in each boat. The first boat whose bow (front) crosses the finish line wins each race.

Unlike canoe and kayak slalom events, in canoe and kayak sprint events the athletes paddle in a different way depending on the style of boat they’re in.


Sprint kayaks are sit on models, which means the competitors do not have an enclosed cockpit around them like they do for kayak slalom. The boats are longer and narrower than slalom kayaks and may be equipped with a rudder, steered by pedals inside the boat. Sprint kayakers still paddle from a seated position using a double edged paddle.


Sprint canoes are also longer than slalom boats and are the thinnest style of boat used in Olympic canoe events. Athletes race in a kneeling position with one knee and one foot on the floor of the boat. Again canoers use a single paddle but because of their unusual racing position they use a longer paddle than slalom canoes.

Who Will Be Competing In Canoe Sprint For Team GB?

Names to watch out for include London 2012 Bronze medalist Liam Heath who will be competing in the K1 category and also in K2 alongside fellow bronze medalist Jon Schofield.

K1 200m Men’s – Liam Heath

K2 200m Men’s – Liam Heath and Jon Schofield

K1 200m Women’s – Jess Walker

K1 500m Women’s – Rachel Cawthorn

K4 500m Women’s – Jess Walker, Louisa Sawers, Rachel Cawthorn, Rebeka Simon

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