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Canoe Sprint at the 2012 London Olympics: Rules and Format

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The canoe sprint will have a total of 246 competitors (158 men and 88 women). Each country can have one boat in each event; which means each country can have a total of 18 competitors (12 men and six women).

The lake in which they will be competing is 2,200 meters long, with nine lanes. Eight of the lanes will be used for competition unless there is a tie in a qualifying round; in which case the tying boat will use the ninth lane.

Event Classes

Canoe sprint is divided into two classes. In the kayak class, competitors are seated and can use both ends of a paddle with two blades. In the canoe class, competitors kneel and use a single-bladed paddle.

Each event has a code for the class and number of people in each boat. A "K" stands for the kayak class, and a "C" stands for the canoe class. The number after it stands for the number of people in the boat. For example, "K4" stands for kayak class, with four people in the boat.

The 200m Women's and Men's K1, and the 200m Men's C1 events are being contested for the first time at the 2012 London Games.


Athletes race over three distances (200 meters, 500 meters, and 1,000 meters) in the various classes, for a total of 12 events (and 12 gold medals up for grabs). At the 2012 London Olympics, men will compete in eight of the 12 events, and women will compete in four, as follows:

Men's events:

C1 200m

K1 200m

K2 200m

C1 1,000m

C2 1,000m

K1 1,000m

K2 1,000m

K4 1,000m

Women's events

K1 200m

K1 500m

K2 500m

K4 500m


Each event will consist of heats, semifinals, B finals (except in K4 events and events with fewer than 11 entries), and A finals. The A finals are the medal races, while the B finals determine placings from 9th to 16th. The top boats from previous rounds (or from the World Championships in the case of heats) get to compete in the center lanes.

The overall format depends on the number of boats competing.

When there are 17 to 24 boats, there will be three heats. The top five from each heat, plus the top sixth-placed boat progress to two semifinals (the rest are out). The top four from each semifinal go to the A final. The rest go to the B final.

When there are between 9 and 16 boats competing, there are two heats.

When there are between 11 and 16 boats competing, the top boats from each heat go to the semifinals while the rest go to the B final. The top boats from each semifinal go to the A final, while the rest go to the B final. The number of boats that progress from the heats and semifinals are detailed below.

When there are 15 or 16 boats, the top six boats from each heat go to two semifinals. The top four boats from each semifinal go to the A final.

When there are 13 or 14 boats, the top five boats from each heat go to two semifinals. The top four boats from each semifinal go to the A final.

When there are 11 or 12 boats, the winning boat from each heat goes straight to the A final, and the others go to the semi-finals. The top three boats from each semifinal go to the A final, and the rest go to the B final.

When there are 9 or 10 boats, the winner of each heat goes straight into the final, with the rest going to one semi-final. The top six boats from the semifinal progress to the A final. There is no B final.


Canoe sprint events are straight head-to-head races on still water.

Competitors will be disqualified for the following infringements: causing two false starts; competing with a boat that does not comply with the rules; capsizing before the bow crosses the finish line; or leaving the four meter central area of their nine meter lane.

Boats that have tied will move on if there are enough available lanes in the next round. If there are no lanes available in the next round all tied boats will re-race one hour after the last race in the session. Additional medals will be awarded to competitors who tie for a medal in the medal round.

When competitors do not agree with a decision from the Competition Committee, they may lodge a protest within twenty minutes of the finish of a race. If they do not agree with the Competition Committee's final decision, they may appeal to the jury within the following twenty minutes.


London 2012

ICF (International Canoe Federation)

The author has been an intense fan of the Olympics as long as she can remember. Her parents were also fans, and she was raised watching the Games on TV since birth.

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