2012 London Olympics: Canoe Sprint

The Summer Olympics as a whole is a very interesting concept. It brings the world together for 16 days every four years, people from different cultures, speaking different languages all tuned in to the same thing. Though they’re cheering for different countries and events, it’s still a shared experience that everyone in the world can relate to. I remember being in 7th grade, getting up early and lining the streets outside my middle school with my classmates, watching as the Olympic torch ran through my hometown, continuing its journey around the world. Even if you’re not a sports-lover, you can’t help but get excited by the Olympics. We here at Folbot are extremely excited, especially for two events: the Canoe Slalom and the Canoe Sprint.

Image courtesy of MichaelKuhn_pics via Flickr

At Folbot, we make awesome flatwater kayaks, which are great for lots of different types of outings. One thing they would not be great for, however, is competing in the Olympics (especially the whitewater slalom event). But just because we’re not going to see our boats competing, doesn’t mean we’re not still super pumped to watch the competition itself. Some people train their entire lives to be in the Olympics. That requires a level of dedication and commitment the likes of which I’ve never really known, but which I can admire and respect wholeheartedly. There are so many emotions, so much beauty, athleticism, passion, dedication, and sacrifice; it’s hard not to be compelled and moved when watching these athletes’ dreams come true (or not).

The Canoe Sprint begins August 6th with the men’s kayak single heats, and ends August 11th with the men’s kayak doubles finals. The canoe sprint has been on the official Olympic program since 1936, making its debut at the Berlin summer Olympics. This year is a bit special, however, since it is the first time that women will have two individual events in sprint canoeing at the Olympics. This year, there are 158 men and 88 women competing, with each country allowed one boat per each race.  The races range from 200-1000m long, and vary from single races to teams of four. Team USA is represented by Tim Hornsby, who is competing in the 200m men’s kayak single, and Carrie Johnson, who is competing in both the 200m and 500m women’s kayak single.

The canoe sprint differs from the slalom race in that it is conducted on still water, rather than whitewater. There are 8 lanes that will be in use at the Eton Dorney Rowing Center, and 12 different events. It’s a straight head-to-head race, such as any other, with the fastest finishers being declared the winners, assuming they did nothing to get disqualified. Athletes can be disqualified for the following: causing two false starts, competing with an illegal boat, capsizing before the bow crosses the finish line, or leaving the four-meter central area of their nine-meter lane. In canoe events, athletes kneel in the boat and use single-bladed paddles; in the kayak event, athletes sit in the boat and use double-bladed paddles. The boats in the Sprint differ from the boats used in the Slalom, as they are long and streamlined to allow smoother movement through the still water.

Each event will consist of heats, semifinals, B finals (except in Kayak Four and events with fewer than 11 entires), and A finals. A finals are the medal races and B finals determine place from 9th-16th. The top boats compete in the center lanes. The number of heats and semifinals depends on the number of boats competing.

In Beijing in 2008, Germany led the Canoe Sprint with 7 total medals, followed by Hungary with 4, and Belarus with 3. The US didn’t place at all. But this year could be our year!

So who’s tuning in for the races? What country are you rooting for? No matter the country, the Sprint is bound to be an exciting race!

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