Canoe sprint has been present in the Olympic programme for more time than slalom, the other discipline from this sport. The first canoe sprint competitions took place in the second half of the 19th century. The first organisation to hold competitions was the Royal Canoe Club, founded in 1866 in England. Shortly afterwards, in 1871, the New York Canoe Club was established. By around 1890, the sport had spread throughout Europe.
In 1924, Canoe Sprint took two important steps that made it even more popular: the foundation of an international federation and its inclusion as an exhibition sport at that year’s Olympic Games, in Paris.
However, the sport did not officially enter the Olympic programme as a medal event until three editions later, at Berlin 1936, with nine events for men only. Women’s events began at the 1948 Games in London, with just one event. Today there are eight men’s events and four women’s events.
Canoe sprint takes place in calm waters, along straight routes marked by buoys, 1,000, 500 and 200 metres in length. The events differ in terms of the number of athletes in the vessels – one, two or four people – and the type of boat used: canoes or kayaks.
Canoes, identified by the letter C, are open boats, in which competitors kneel on one knee and use a single-bladed oar.
Identified by the letter K, kayaks have enough space for competitors to sit while they row with a double-bladed oar, each blade dipped alternately. The aim is simple: to complete the route in the shortest possible time.