Baku 2015: A Sport-by-Sport Review

Team GB’s athletes showed that they are among the best the continent has to offer at the European Games as the squad finished with 47 medals. Th...


Full Article


Canoes and kayaks have been an important means of crossing small stretches of water for transport, hunting and fishing ever since early civilizations hollowed out to trees to use as primitive boats.

The Inuit Eskimos stretched animal skins waterproofed with whale fat over frames made from whalebone and driftwood to create the closed-top kayak, while Native North and South Americans developed the similar open-topped bark canoe for inland waterways.

In the 1860s, British barrister John MacGregor – a noted explorer and travel writer - studied the design of ancient kayaks and built a similar boat with which to travel Europe’s waterways.

Over time, other people were inspired by his design and the Royal Canoe Club was formed in 1865 to hold competitions and regattas. Britons traveling around the world introduced the concept to other countries, helping to spread its popularity so quickly that it soon became an Olympic sport.

Olympic History

Canoeing events were included as a demonstration sport in the 1924 Summer Games in Paris, France, and the founding of the International Canoe Federation prompted the inclusion of canoeing and kayaking as full Olympic sports for the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, Germany.

Canoeing and kayaking events were opened up to women for the 1948 Summer Games in London, England. Early events were a combination of sprints and long-distance races, contested over 1000m and 10,000m for men and 5000m for women, but the distances are now fixed at 500m and 1000m

The sport has tended to be dominated by European entrants. Swede Gert Fredriksson dominated the early years of the sport, winning six golds from a total of eight medals between 1948 and 1960. Probably the most famous canoe/kayak competitor of all time, though, is German Birgit Fischer, who won a total of eight gold medals and four silvers between 1980 and 2004 – one of the longest-spanning successful careers of any Olympic female athlete.


Canoe / kayak flatwater races take place on calm, open expanses of water – at least two-metres deep – with events run over 200m, 500m and 1000m. Nine entrants take place in each race. Open-topped canoe events are open to single entrants or pairs, while closed-topped kayak events are open to singles, pairs or fours.

The objective is simply to be the fastest along the course and the first across the line, with close competitions often decided by the use of a photo-finish camera.



In comparison with slalom canoes, which are closed to prevent the ingress of water in the rougher, white-water conditions, flat-water canoes have an open top.

Canoes are operated from a kneeling position with a single-bladed paddle. They carry one (C1) or two (C2) athletes. Events are for men only. The shorter C1 canoes are a maximum of 5.2m in length and must weigh 16kg, while the C2 canoes are 6.5m in length with a minimum weight of 20kg.


Kayaks have a closed top and are operated from a sitting position using paddles with blades at each end. They are lighter than canoes and have a small rear rudder operated by the feet. They carry one (K1), two (K2) or four (K4) athletes, and events are open to both men and women. The shorter K1 kayak must be less than 5.2m in length and should weigh at least 12kg, the K2 kayaks should be 6.5m in length and a minimum of 18kg, while the K4 kayaks are 11m in length with a minimum weight of 30kg.

Single-bladed paddle

A paddle with a blade at just one end for canoeing. In doubles events, each athlete rows on a particular side of the boat.

Double-bladed paddle

A paddle with a blade at both ends for kayaking. In both singles and team events, athletes will do alternate strokes on alternate sides of the boats to avoid the effects of torque steer and keep the kayak travelling in a straight line.

Spray skirt

A stretch of waterproof material attached between the waist of the athletes and the surface of the craft to prevent water getting into the kayak. This item of equipment is not used in canoes, which are open craft.



Competitors shall be on the water at the starting area, not less than five minutes prior to the specified time of their race. The starting area is defined as the being the area of water within 100 metres before the starting line. 

Two minutes before the defined starting time the competing boats have to take the lane determined in the programme.

In races up to 1000 meters, competitors must keep the whole of their boat within the four-meter wide central area of their lane from the start to the finish of the course. Upon any deviation, the boat must go back 

immediately to this central area of the lane. No boat must come nearer than five meters in any direction to the boat of another competitor - that is, gunwale to gunwale or bow to stern. 

If a boat leaves the centre of the lane and does not return to it, the boat may be disqualified from the event.


In races of more than 1000 meters competitors may deviate from their lane, providing they do not impede other competitors.

The boat has finished the race when its bow crosses the finish line with all crew members in it. The Finish line judges will determine the result of the competition based on the order of the boats arriving according to the rules. 


Team HeroesEntire Team

The current Olympic champion and formerly a World and European champion, Mckeever, who competes in the K1 200m, is one Britain’s most successful ever sprint canoeists.


He has won five World Cup gold medals and is al...

Our Results

Total: 8 medals
  • 2 Gold
  • 1 Silver
  • 5 Bronze
Sydney 2000
  • 0 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
Athens 2004
  • 0 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
Beijing 2008
  • 1 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
London 2012
  • 1 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
Baku 2015
  • 0 Gold
  • 1 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
View More