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Canoe/Kayak 101: Basics

Andrew Weber; USA TODAY

Canoe/Kayak 101: Basics

Learn more about the basics of Olympic canoe/kayak.

Canoe/Kayak Sprint
In the canoe/kayak sprint events, a total of 12 gold medals are up for grabs. Athletes sprint to the finish in a straight, calm water (flatwater) course to achieve the shortest time possible. Men compete in eight sprint races and women compete in four. Men's races, consisting of both the canoe and the kayak, are contested at either 200 meters or 1000 meters. The four women's races are contested at 200 or 500 meters and are only in the kayak.

In the following list, "C" denotes the canoe and "K" denotes the kayak, and the numbers indicate how many paddlers are in the boat.
Men
Kayak single (K1) 200m
Kayak single (K1) 1000m
Kayak double (K2) 200m
Kayak double (K2) 1000m
Kayak four (K4) 1000m
Canoe single (C1) 200m
Canoe single (C1) 1000m
Canoe double (C2) 1000m

Women
Kayak single (K1) 200m
Kayak single (K1) 500m
Kayak double (K2) 500m
Kayak four (K4) 500m

In sprint, boat requirements must be met for each of the five classes:
K1: Competitors sit, use double-bladed paddles and the kayak is up to 5.2m long weighing at least 12kg.
K2: Competitors sit, use double-bladed paddles and the kayak is up to 6.5m long weighing at least 18kg.
K4: Competitors sit, use double-bladed paddles and the kayak is up to 11m long weighing at least 30kg.
C1: Competitors rest on one knee, use one single-bladed paddle and the canoe is 5.2m long weighing at least 14kg.
C2: Competitors rest on one knee, use one single-bladed paddle and the canoe is 6.5m long weighing at least 20kg.

See Canoe/Kayak equipment page for full description.

Canoe/Kayak Slalom
Deriving from ski slalom, canoe/kayak slalom is held on a steep, man-made course of rapid-flowing rough water also known as whitewater, for the white foam created by the waves. In both men's and women's events, paddlers will race one at a time against the clock and negotiate a 250-meter slalom course consisting of 18-25 gates in the shortest time possible.  Green gates are negotiated in the direction of the current and red gates against the current. Judges will add a two second time penalty for touching the gate or a fifty second penalty for failing to pass through them. Four gold medals are up for grab in these slalom events. Men compete in two canoe events and one kayak event, and the women's event is in the kayak.  

In the following list, "C" denotes the canoe and "K" denotes the kayak, and the numbers indicate how many paddlers are in the boat.
Men
Kayak single (K1)
Canoe single (C1)
Canoe double (C2)

Women
Kayak single (K1)

In slalom, a canoe is required to be a minimum of 3.5m long for C1 and 4.1m for C2 and competitors use single-blade paddles and kayaks must be a minimum 3.5m long and competitors use double-blade paddle. All competitors will sit in their canoe or kayak.

See Canoe/Kayak equipment page for full description.

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