Updated: 24/07/2012 14:51 | By pa.press.net

CANOE SLALOM



Canoe Slalom

Canoe slalom was originally modelled on skiing, and the story goes that it was apparently invented so that skiers had something to do in the summer months.

The sport involves competitors twisting their way down a winding course of flowing water that is approximately 300 metres long in either a canoe or a kayak. They must safely navigate their way through a series of gates on a downhill line, all the time fighting against the current of a testing white-water course.

During each run, they must manoeuvre themselves through up to 25 gates, some of which are downstream and some of which pose a much stiffer test upstream against the flow of the water.

The winner is the paddler who records the quickest combined time over two runs, although penalty points are added to a competitor's score for touching or missing a gate.

As each course is different and has its own particular challenges, a paddler must quickly become accustomed to the lay-out of an individual event, as every second is vital in a sport where even the most minor of errors can see a paddler go badly off line.

Upper-body strength and poise are needed to be able to steer a canoe or kayak against the powerful forces of the water, making for an enthralling spectacle.

Initially staged on flat water, competitive canoe slalom races on white water were first held in Switzerland in 1932, but the start of the Second World War six years later set back the development of the sport.

It was not until much later, at Munich 1972, that canoe slalom made its Olympic debut and it was another 20 years before the sport eventually became a permanent part of the Games schedule, at Barcelona 1992.

At the Olympics, men race single or double canoes and single kayaks, while women race in only single kayaks.

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