A total of 64 athletes, 34 of them male and 30 female, will be taking part in the eight canoe-kayak events (men’s and women’s K1 and C1 flatwater and slalom) to be held at the Nanjing Rowing and Canoeing School.
Though flatwater events usually see kayakers and canoeists race in lanes down a straight course over distances of 200m, 500m and 1,000m, the canoe-kayak competitions at the Youth Olympic Games involve athletes competing against each other in head-to-head races on a figure-of-eight course measuring 420 metres.
Starting at the same time at opposite ends of the course, the two athletes paddle in opposite directions, executing a left turn and a right turn, and complete the course when they cross the line from which their opponent started. The four flatwater competitions begin with a qualifying round, with the eight best athletes going through to the quarter-finals, which are followed by the semi-finals and the final medal round.
Women’s flatwater canoeing is not included on the Olympic Games programme, which only features women’s kayak sprint competitions only. Another difference is that all of the flatwater events at the YOG are individual races.
Slalom with a twist
The slalom events at Nanjing 2014 also mark a departure from the norm, with no specially built artificial courses or hanging gates. Competitors will start at the same time, dropping from a ramp before slaloming their way down identical parallel courses – measuring around 60 metres – in opposite directions. After negotiating four buoys on one side, they must then paddle their way up the adjacent course, navigating their way past the four other buoys as they go.
The first athlete to reach the finish line, which is the line they started from, is declared the winner and goes forward to the next round, with the competition continuing until the last remaining pair fight it out for the gold medal. Four separate slalom competitions will be held: boys’ C1 and K1, and girls’ C1 and K1.
As in the flatwater competitions, there will also be a girls’ canoe slalom competition at Nanjing 2014. This represents yet another difference from the Olympic Games, where the only women’s slalom event is contested by kayakers.