The majority of people who participate in canoeing do it as a leisure activity. It is, after all, bags of fun, exciting and a great way to explore the big outdoors while keeping fit at the same time. For some canoeists, however, they have one goal in life and that is to represent their country on the world’s biggest stage and be able to lay claim to being the best canoeist on the planet. For any athlete, representing their country at the Olympic Games would be the pinnacle of their career. Thankfully, canoeing has been part of the Olympic Games’ calendar for the previous 19 editions of the summer Olympics and has a busy schedule of 16 events planned for the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Both canoeing and kayaking have been competition sports at the Summer Olympic Games since the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany, but they did feature as a demonstration sport at the 1924 games in Paris, France. The two disciplines of canoeing at the Olympics are sprint and slalom while two types of boat are used. These boat types are canoes with one or two canoeists or kayaks with one, two or four kayakers. It is the boat type and number of occupants that gives the event their codes. For example, a “C-2” s a canoe doubles race while a “K-1” is a kayak singles race.
Sprint has featured at every Summer Olympic Games since 1936. There have been C-1 1000 meters, C-2 1000 meters and both K-1 and K-2 Men’s 1000 meters competitions. Women’s event started in 1948 with the K-1 500 meters and these were added to in 1960 with a K-2 500 meters race and again in 1984 when a K-4 500 meters event was scheduled. Women’s canoe events, C-1 and C-2 over 500 meters will feature for the first time at the 2020 Olympic Games.
The most successful country, measured in medals won, for canoeing and kayaking at the Summer Olympic Games is Germany. Having won a total of 70 medals, made up to 32 gold, 18 silver and 20 bronze, the Germans excel on the whitewater and have won the most gold medals of any other country. If you include the exploits of the now defunct East Germany, you can add 14 more gold, seven more silver and nine more bronze medals to their totals.
Soviet Union, which includes modern day Russia, have 29 gold, 13 silver and 9 bronze medals, but are unlikely to add to their impressive tally any time soon due to the massive doping scandal that hit the country which saw Russian athletes banned from competing on the biggest stage. In terms of total medals won, regardless of their value, it is Hungary that leads the way with 80. The Hungarians have, over the years, seen their canoeists and kayakers won 25 gold, 29 silver and 26 bronze medals and their team are always among the favourites to go deep in every Olympic Games event they enter due to their impressive record at the game throughout the years.
Perhaps surprisingly, canoeing is not a sport that the United States of America excels in. The U.S.A usually dominate most Olympic sports but they only have five gold, five silver and six bronze medals to their name, which is fewer than countries such as Great Britain, New Zealand, Romania and Slovakia.