Feature | Canoe

Olympic canoe slalom at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

Who are the top canoe slalom at Tokyo 2020 in 2021? When and where will Olympic canoe slalom take place? What is the history of slalom canoeing at the Olympics? Find out here.

By Ashlee Tulloch ·

An added event in the canoe slalom Olympic programme is set to make the sport more dynamic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

For the first time in Olympic competition, women will also compete in canoes.

With the IOC committed to gender equality, women's C1 has been introduced.

Previously, women competed only in kayaks, while men competed in both canoe and kayak. In 2021, women will compete in both boats, on the same white water course.

But who are the top contenders? When will canoeing competition take place? Where will it be held? Here is our guide to the top things to know about Olympic Canoe slalom.

Top canoe slalom athletes at Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021

European athletes tend to excel in canoe slalom, but that's not to say other smaller nations won't be making the challenge for the podium places difficult.

Tokyo 2020 will be Maialen Chourraut's fourth Olympic Games. The Spaniard spent the start of 2021 training on France's Reunion Island and will have fierce competition when defending her women's K1 gold medal and trying to add to her London 2012 bronze.

Australia's Jessica Fox is eager to take top spot on the podium after a silver at London 2012 and bronze at Rio 2016, following her Youth Olympic Games title in Singapore.

Like Fox, New Zealand's Luuka Jones has confirmed she'll be competing in the new women's C1 event as well. Fox is already a runner up in both events at the 2019 World Championships while the kiwi, who won Rio 2016 C1 silver, has had optimal training time in New Zealand where COVID-19 restrictions have been less severe thanks to the country largely being covid-free.

Mallory Franklin of Great Britain is ranked second behind Fox in C1 and is expected to perform well in Tokyo. At 1.79 m, Franklin is the tallest women's canoe slalom athlete heading to the Games.

In the men's K1 competition Rio 2016 gold medallist Joe Clarke controversially missed out on earning a spot, as fellow Briton Bradley Forbes-Cryans finished one spot higher at the 2019 World Championships.

Jiri Prskavec will be the man to beat, however. The Czech is the Rio 2016 bronze medallist and reigning World champion. Spain's young rising star David Llorente will also be one to watch out for. The 2019 World Championship K1 silver medallist is hungry to taste Olympic success on debut.

In the men's C1, Japan's very own Takuya Haneda will be looking to perform well at home after clinching bronze four years ago at Rio 2016. Stiff competition in France means Denis Gargaud has missed the opportunity to defend his Olympic title, while reigning world champion Cedric Joly also missed selection as Martin Thomas earned the coveted spot.

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Olympic canoe slalom competition format at Tokyo 2020

Canoe slalom has a total of four events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021 - the men’s and women’s single kayak (K1) features 24 competitors for each gender, while the men's and women's single canoe (C1) features 17 competitors each.

A canoe paddler's goal is to get as quickly as possible through a series of gates in a rapids course. They must navigate through the course without touching the gates. Depending on which direction the gate signals, the competitors must manoeuvre upstream or downstream around the gate.

The slalom canoeing races are judged based on time. If mistakes occur, time penalties are given for errors, such as missing a gate or touching a pole.

The course is approximately 250m long, with up to 25 gates. The duration of each run is usually around 95 seconds.

At the Games, a paddler has two runs in the qualification round. The fastest of those two times determines their qualification result. In the kayak disciplines, 20 competitors progress to the semi-finals while in canoe only the top 15 paddlers advance. In both semi-finals, the athlete gets one run, and the ten quickest times will determine who competes in the final. The last run decides the final order of finishers and medallists.

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Olympic Canoe slalom schedule at Tokyo 2020

Competition takes place over six days, from 25th July to 30th July 2021.

All times are Japan Standard Time (UTC +9 hours)

Date and Time: Sun 25 July 2021, 13:00 - 16:45

  • Canoe (C1) Men Heats
  • Kayak (K1) Women Heats

Date and Time: Mon 26 July 2021, 14:00 - 16:45

  • Canoe (C1) Men Semi-final
  • Canoe (C1) Men Final
  • Canoe (C1) Men Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Tue 27 July 2021, 14:00 - 17:00

  • Kayak (K1) Women Semi-final
  • Kayak (K1) Women Final
  • Kayak (K1) Women Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Wed 28 July 2021, 13:00 - 16:45

  • Canoe (C1) Women Heats
  • Kayak (K1) Men Heats

Date and Time: Thu 29 July 2021, 14:00 - 16:45

  • Canoe (C1) Women Semi-final
  • Canoe (C1) Women Final
  • Canoe (C1) Women Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Fri 30 July 2021, 14:00 - 17:00

  • Kayak (K1) Men Semi-final
  • Kayak (K1) Men Final
  • Kayak (K1) Men Victory Ceremony

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Olympic canoe slalom venue at Tokyo 2020.

History will be made at the canoe slalom competition as the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre is Japan's first man-made canoe course.

Once the Games in 2021 are over, the venue will become a facility for leisure activities and a vast variety of water sports.

The Olympic canoe slalom venue maximum capacity is 7,500.

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Olympic canoe slalom history

Traditionally canoes have been used for transportation for thousands of years, but it's history as an Olympic sport hasn't been smooth sailing.

Canoe sprint joined the Olympic programme in 1936 in Berlin while canoe slalom was introduced 36 years later at 1972 in Munich.

After its debut, canoe slalom experienced a 20-year hiatus from the Games, returning at a permanent part of the programme at Barcelona 1992.