At Olympic level there are only 2 disciplines on the programme; Sprint and Slalom. Canoes, known by the designation ‘C’ and Kayaks known by ‘K’ are used in both. Canoes use a single-ended paddle to propel or control the boat, where as Kayaks use double ended paddles. Canoeists kneel in their boats which can be singles or doubles (C1 and C2), whereas Kayakers sit and use single, double of 4 person boats (K1, K2 and K4).
Sprint, is raced on a flatwater course over 1000m or 200m, was introduced at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. Up to 9 boats race in a straight line, marked by buoys. Usually a paddler (as the athletes are known within the sport) must progress through heats and semi finals to reach the final. First, second and third across the finish line decide the medals.
Slalom, on the other hand, is a competition of timed runs on a rough water course where the paddler (only a individual, there are no crew boats in Slalom) must try to negotiate their way through ‘gates’ (sets of poles hanging at strategic points over the course) in the correct order and without touching the gates. Paddlers with the fastest times progress from heats and semi-finals through to the final.