The canoe slalom event uses specially designed craft that are small, agile and manoeuvrable, in direct contrast to the canoe sprint craft that are long and sleek.
Canoe Slalom started in Switzerland in 1933 and was based upon the principles of ski slalom events, with competitors having to pass through different coloured gates to complete the course.
In the early days canoe slalom was performed on flat water but in time switched to the more exciting white water courses used today. Canoe slalom made its first Olympics appearance during the 1972 Munich Games, although it was not until the 1992 Barcelona Games that the event returned in its current format.
At the London 2012 Games there will be four different canoe slalom events, these are the C1, C2, K1 men’s and K1 women’s. The difference between canoe (C) and kayak (K) classifications is based upon craft and paddling equipment. Canoeists kneel in their craft and a have a single flat paddle, whilst kayakers sit in their craft and have a double ended paddle, which is typically curved.
The event itself sees 82 competitors making a timed run down the course. They must go through around 25 gates in both downstream and upstream directions whilst traversing the white water. Competitors must be careful around the gates as touching one will result in a 2 second time penalty whereas missing a gate entirely will result in a disastrous 50 second penalty. The event is held in rounds of heats for each discipline, followed by a semi final and then a final.
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