images of Canoe

Olympic Sports


Canoeing has two thrilling disciplines: the power-packed canoe sprint on flat water and daunting canoe slalom on white-water rapids.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of canoe in one minute. Whether you are familiar with canoe or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.


Canoeing has been a common aquatic transportation method used worldwide for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that the first official canoe and kayak races were held, in Great Britain.

The sport now takes two forms: fiercely competitive canoe sprint, in which athletes compete head-to-head on a straight course; and spectacular canoe slalom, in which athletes negotiate a series of suspended gates while descending a rapidly flowing current as quickly as possible.
International Federation: International Canoe Federation(Open in a new window)

Event Programme


  • Kayak (K-1) (Men/Women)
  • Canoe (C-1) (Men/Women)


  • Kayak Single (K-1) 200m (Men/Women)
  • Kayak Single (K-1) 1,000m (Men)
  • Kayak Single (K-1) 500m (Women)
  • Kayak Double (K-2) 1,000m (Men)
  • Kayak Double (K-2) 500m (Women)
  • Kayak Four (K-4) 500m (Men/Women)
  • Canoe Single (C-1) 1,000m (Men)
  • Canoe Single (C-1) 200m (Women)
  • Canoe Double (C-2) 1,000m (Men)
  • Canoe Double (C-2) 500m (Women)


Canoe Sprint

Canoeing first featured as a demonstration sport at the 1924 Paris Games. It became a full Olympic sport in 1936, when races were held over distances of 1,000m and 10,000m. Since then, the Olympic events have grown shorter: the last long-distance events were held at the Melbourne Games of 1956.

At Tokyo 2020, athletes will race over distances of 200m, 500m or 1,000m, either solo, in pairs or in teams of four. They will use a single-bladed paddle from a kneeling position in canoes, which are steered by the athlete making corrective strokes with their paddle. In kayaks, which are steered using a small rudder, the competitors sit in the boat and use a paddle with two blades.

Since athletes can only paddle on one side in canoe events, they must deal with the boat's tendency to turn to the left when paddled on the right, and vice versa. Another interesting aspect of canoe events is that some athletes adopt a distinctive style in which they draw their knees up under their chin.

Canoe Slalom

Modelled on slalom skiing, the first canoe slalom competition was held in Switzerland in 1932. The sport was staged on flat water during its early days, but was later switched to white water rapids.

Since becoming a permanent part of the Olympic programme at the Barcelona 1992 Games, the sport has consistently thrilled spectators with non-stop action on the unforgiving water.

Canoe slalom competitions consist of timed runs down a course containing around 20 gates, comprising two hanging poles, through which they must manoeuvre their boats without touching them. Several of the gates are positioned upstream, which requires a change of direction and demands considerable strength and skill to paddle against the swift current.

Touching a gate adds a two-second time penalty to the run; missing a gate incurs a 50-second penalty. The time taken to run the course is added to penalty seconds incurred to give the overall time.

While the boats used in canoe sprint events are long and streamlined, canoe slalom boats are small, light and agile. The different shape allows for greater manoeuvrability through the rapids.


Battling for gold in Tokyo

Across both disciplines, canoeing is Germany's most successful summer Olympic sport with a total of 32 gold medals. Among its leading performers, Sebastian Brendel won gold medals at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the 1,000m singles and gold in the 1,000m pairs at Rio 2016.

Hungary's Danuta Kozák has won five Olympic gold medals; the three she gained at Rio 2016 made her the only female to win K1 (singles), K2 (pairs) and K4 (team) titles at the same Games.

As boat design continues to evolve and the Olympic programme offers a more even spread of events for men and women, Tokyo 2020 is sure to deliver thrilling competition and create new stars to enter the sport's history books.



How do athletes keep water out of their boats during canoe slalom races?


A: They wear a spraydeck, usually made of rubber, around their waist. After placing their legs into the boat, they seal the oval-shaped deck to the cockpit so that there is no gap through which water can get in.

As of 1 Dec. 2018

Competition Venues

  • Sea Forest Waterway
  • Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports