Despite its European popularity, canoe slalom has yet to earn recognition in many communities across Canada. Canoe slalom requires precision and involves kayaks and canoes navigating a series of 18-24 slalom gates overhanging a 200-400m white water course as quickly as possible. This necessitates physical strength as well as mental focus. The course typically consists of 12-19 green downstream gates and 6 additional red upstream gates.
Downstream gates must be negotiated in the direction of the current, whereas upstream gates, which are typically placed in eddies or behind rocks where the water flows upstream, must be navigated in the upstream direction of the current.
Each gate is numbered, and must be completed in numerical order, without touching or missing any gates. When a gate is done cleanly (crossing between the poles without touching either pole), there are no penalty seconds added to the paddler’s time. If the paddler touches a gate, two seconds are added, and if the gate is missed completely, a fifty second penalty is awarded. Penalties are assigned by judges who are positioned at each gate to determine whether there should be zero, two, or fifty seconds added to the time.
There are 5 disciplines within the sport: men’s and women’s kayak (K1M/K1W; a single paddler, sitting, with a double blade paddle); men’s and women’s canoe (C1M/C1W; a single paddler, kneeling, with a single blade paddle); and men’s canoe double (C2M), which has two paddlers kneeling, each with a single blade paddle. I focus on C1W, although I do train and race in both K1W and C1W.
While there are five disciplines at the World Championships and most international races, the Olympics still host gender inequality allocating only one discipline to women (K1W). C1W is on track to premier at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.