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Canoe / Kayak Slalom

Updated: 2006-08-21 19:19

Canoe / Kayak Slalom Olympic Sport since 1972

A whalebone and driftwood frame, with a sea-lion skin stretched tautly over it and waterproofed with whale fat, hardly suggests a budding Olympic sport. Yet the kayaks that meant life to the Inuits in the Arctic for centuries have become the racing kayaks of the modern world - even if the building materials have changed.

Canoe / Kayak Slalom
Czech Republic's Jaroslav Volf (R) and Ondrej Stepanek compete to win the C2 men race at the ICF Canoe/Kayak Slalom Racing World Championships 2006 in Prague August 5, 2006. [Reuters]

The link was 19th century British barrister John MacGregor. He studied the ancient kayaks, designed a similar boat and disappeared into the rivers and lakes of Europe's wilderness to become a noted travel writer of his time. When others copied his boat, he founded the Royal Canoe Club, and canoe regattas began a year later in 1866.

The sport reached the Olympic Games in 1924. Almost half a century later, in Munich in 1972, canoe/kayak branched out into the dramatic whitewater version, the slalom.


The slalom events, involving men's K1, C1 and C2 and women's K1 (denoting one or two paddlers in a canoe or kayak), require the paddlers to negotiate 20 to 25 gates in turbulent water over a 300-metre course. Competitors aim to complete the course in the shortest time, factoring in penalties.



C-1 (canoe single)
C-2 (canoe double) 

K-1 (kayak single)

 K-1 (kayak single)