Speed, strength and mental toughness are important attributes of an elite Slalom Canoeist. The challenge is to make their way down a whitewater river, precisely navigating through a series of “gates“ put in place to test their skills. However, these are not the only obstacles – rocks, water size and speed also play a crucial part in the race.
The Race against Time
The ultimate race is against the clock. The time taken to paddle from start to finish gives the competitors their total time. However, a two second penalty is awarded for touching a gate and a 50 second penalty for missing a gate. There are so many variables that an athlete must negotiate whilst racing down the river, that it truly does make for a competitive and exciting sport.
What are the numbered gates?
They are pairs of 2-meters poles, with a distance of 1,2m to 3,5m between them that hang over the course, creating a “gate“ through which athletes are expected to pass. The number of gates in a course can vary from 18 to 25. When gates are green and white, the athletes have t pass them in the direction of the main current – downstream. When gates are red and white, athletes have to pass them in the opposite direction to that of the main current – upstream.
What is meant by “passing through numbered gates without penalties“
The athlete must pass through all the gates one by one in the order they are numbered, without touching them. When an athlete touches a gate (with the boat, paddle or body) he/she receives a 2 seconds penalty. For the gates that the athlete fails or misses to pass, a 50 seconds penalty is received. The penalties are handed out by the judges and are added to the time of the athlete’s run.
What is canoe/ kayak slalom race?
It involves two Heat runs, one Semifinal run and one Final run. The time and the penalties of the Heats determine which athletes qualify to the Semifinals. The time and penalties of the Semifinal determines which athletes will run in the Final. The time and the penalties of the Semifinal and the Finals are added. The athlete with the smallest time (time and penalties of the Semifinal and Final run) is the winner.
K = Kayak (Athletes in sitting position and using double blade paddle)
C = Canoe (Athletes in kneeling position and using single blade paddle)
Individual Events: Men: K1, C1 and C2; Women: K1
Team Event: Team event comprises 3 boats from the same category (3xK1 Men, 3xK1 Women, 3xC1 men, 3xC2 Men). All boats take off successively from the starting lake, and the team is timed from the moment the first boat crosses the starting line to the moment the third boat crosses he finishing line.