- Two types of boats are used in this sport, canoes and kayaks.
Canoes are usually open at the top but kayaks are closed. The paddle of a canoe has one blade. A kayaker’s paddle has two.
- In canoeing you kneel on one knee but in kayaking you sit.
The names of the different events depend on the number of canoers or kayakers. So “C-2” means a race with two athletes in each canoe and “K-1” is a kayak race with one athlete in each kayak.
- Sprint events take place on a straight course which is divided into lanes, on calm water.
There are nine lanes and any boat leaving its lane is disqualified.
- Slalom events take place on a course of between 20 and 25 gates, which are suspended above the water.
Athletes must go through different gates depending if they are going downstream, or upstream.
- If a boat touches a gate it is penalised 5 seconds, and if it misses a gate it is penalised 10 seconds.
The fastest time, after adding on penalties, is the winner.
What do you know about canoeing and kayaking?
Not much, though I remember reading a poem about a Native American called Hiawatha who was very good at using a kayak.
You mean a canoe.
Do I? But canoes and kayaks are the same, aren’t they?
No, canoes are usually open at the top but kayaks are closed. Also, the paddle of a canoe has one blade, whereas a kayaker’s paddle has two. Also, in canoeing you kneel on one knee but in kayaking you sit.
So have you read that poem?
Yes, and Hiawatha definitely used a canoe. Besides, kayaks were first made and used by Inuit hunters in sub-Arctic regions.
And what about canoes?
Hard to say. They were used all over the world, on every continent. And the oldest canoe was found in the Netherlands and was built around 8000 BC.
That’s a long time ago. When did it become an Olympic sport?
In Berlin in 1936.
Really? Why do they sometimes race on calm water? Aren’t they excited?
No, no. ‘Calm water’ means the water isn’t moving - like a lake. That’s where they hold the sprint events.
And the events where they have to go through the gates?
You mean the slalom events. They are held on moving water called white water.
Hmm … I don’t suppose they have canoe races without paddles, do they?
No, of course not. What a funny question!
Yes, it’s just that I think Hiawatha would have been very good at that type of race.
Because in the poem it says “Paddles none had Hiawatha, Paddles none he had or needed, For his thoughts as paddles served him”.
I see! So he used his mind to guide his canoe!
That’s right. Maybe they should have a race without paddles in the future.