Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canoe Slalom - Courses

Slalom courses are usually on Class II - IV whitewater. Some courses are technical, containing many rocks. Others are on stretches containing fewer rocks and larger waves and holes. Slalom canoeing made its Olympic debut in 1972 in Augsburg, W. Germany. It was not seen again until 1992 in Seu d'Urgell as part of the Barcelona games. Since then, slalom paddling has been a regular at the Olympics. The 1972 Olympics in Augsburg were held on an artificial whitewater course. The Augsburg Eiskanal set the stage for the future of artificial course creation. With the exception of the altered river bed of the Ocoee River in 1996, every Olympic venue has been a man-made concrete channel. Since the late 80s, artificial course creation has surged; now most countries that field Olympic slalom teams have more than one artificial course to train on. Artificial river creation has evolved and new courses have fewer issues than the some of the initial designs. Artificial rivers / creeks offer a controlled environment that offers a more consistent field of play for slalom racers and better viewing for spectators. However, natural river courses are still utilized in many national and international slalom races throughout the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canoe Slalom - Boats

In the 1960s and early 1970s, boats were made of heavy fiberglass and nylon. The boats were high volume and weighed over 65 pounds (30 kilos). In the early 1970s Kevlar was used and the boats became lighter as well as the volume of the boats was being reduced almost every year as new designs were made. A minimum boat weight was introduced to equalize competition when super light materials began to effect race results. The I.C.F also reduced the width of the boats in the early 1970s. The gates were hung about 10 cm above the water. When racers began making lower volume boats to sneak underneath gates, the gates were raised in response to fears that new boats would be of such low volume as to create a hazard to the paddler. Their low volume sterns allow the boat to slice through the water in a quick turn, or 'pivot'. Usually boats are made with carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass cloth, using epoxy or polyester resin to hold the layers together. Foam sandwich construction in between layers of carbon, Kevlar, or Aramid is another technique in use to increase the stiffness of slalom boats. Recently, the minimum length of these boats were reduced from 4 meters down to 3.5 meters, causing a flurry of new, faster boat designs which are able to navigate courses with more speed and precision. The shorter length also allows for easier navigation and less boat damage in the smaller man made river beds that are prevalent in current elite competitions.

Canoe Slalom - Rules

Each gate consists of two poles hanging from a wire strung across the river. There are 18-25 (although nowadays there are more often near 18 than 25) numbered gates in a course and they are colored as either green (downstream) or red (upstream), indicating the direction they must be negotiated. Upstream gates are often placed in eddies, where the water is flat or moving slightly upstream; the paddler eddies out from the main current and paddles upstream through the gate. Most slalom courses take 80 to 120 seconds to complete for the fastest paddlers. Depending on the level of competition, difficulty of course, degree of water turbulence and ability of the other paddlers, times can go up to 200 seconds. Each competitor has two runs on the course, and the final result is based either on the faster run (in smaller races or lower division races) or the sum of the two runs (in national and international competitions). In international competitions (World Cups, World Championships, Olympic Games) each competitor does two runs in the qualification round, the times are added to give the qualification result. Depending on the number of participants of the event, 10 to 40 boats make it through to the semi-final; this consists of one run on a different course. The fastest 10 boats per event make it through to the final, where they navigate the semi-final course once more and times of semi-final and final run are added to give the final result. If the competitor's boat, paddle or body touches either pole of the gate, a time penalty of two seconds is added. If the competitor misses a gate completely, displaces it by more than 45 degrees, goes through the gate upside-down, or goes through it in the wrong order, a 50 second penalty is given.

Canoe Slalom - Debut in Olympics

The canoeing competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona was composed of 16 events (12 for men and 4 for women) in two disciplines, slalom and sprint. The slalom events returned to the Olympic program after a 20 year absence, since the 1972 Munich Games. Slalom events took place at La Seu d'Urgell. At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, for the first time at the Olympic Games, four events in slalom canoeing were also contested.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Canoe Slalom - Overview

Whitewater Slalom (Canoe slalom since November 2008) is a competitive sport where the aim is to navigate a decked canoe or kayak through a course of hanging gates on river rapids in the fastest time possible. It is one of the two kayak and canoeing disciplines at the Summer Olympics, and is referred to by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as Canoe slalom. Whitewater slalom racing started in Europe and in the 1940s, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) was formed to govern the sport. The first World Championships were held in 1949 in Switzerland. From 1949 to 1999, the championships were held every odd-numbered year and have been held annually in non-Summer Olympic years since 2002. Folding kayaks were used from 1949 to 1963; and in the early 1960s, boats were made of fiberglass, and nylon. Boats were heavy, usually over 65 pounds (30 kilos). With the advent of kevlar and carbon fiber being used in the 1970s, the widths of the boats were reduced by the ICF, and the boats were reduced in volume to pass the gates, and boats have become much lighter and faster.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canoe Slalom - History

Canoe Slalom on whitewater started on 11 September 1932 in Switzerland. The sport’s inventor proclaimed “Slalom is a whitewater test” and his idea came from skiing, where the key terms change from “winter, snow and Ski Slalom” to “summer, water and Canoe Slalom.”Unfortunately World War Two began just six years after the first Canoe Slalom competition was held in Switzerland and the development of the sport was set back, especially from an Olympic point of view. Once the war was over, the first Canoe Slalom World Championships under the patronage of the ICF were organised in 1949 in Geneva, Switzerland.The first period (1949-1972) is characterised by dramatic changes. Folding and rigid canvas canoes were replaced with fibreglass reinforced plastic boats at championship events. Great Britain had its first World Champion in Paul Farrant who in 1959 won the men’s K1 World Title. The second important period (1972 – 1992)was filled with changing and simplifying slalom rules as well as with hopes and dreams of slalom becoming an Olympic sport again. This time too, brought dramatic changes in boat construction. Canoe Slalom made its debut at the Olympic Games in 1972 with the course at Augsburg in Germany still used for International competition today. Unfortunately after 1972, Canoe Slalom did not return to the Olympic programme until 1992. During the late 1970’s and 1980’s Great Britain became the dominant force in Canoe Slalom with multiple medallists and the 1983 World Championships remains Britain’s most successful Worlds in Canoe Slalom with 3 Golds, 2 Silvers and 2 Bronzes won.