Tokyo Olympics: Canoe Sprint

  • 01/01/2021

Contested on a flatwater course, usually a lake, canoe sprint competition is similar to rowing and often uses the same venues.

The discipline was first contested at the Olympics as a demonstration sport in Paris 1924 and became a core event at Berlin 1936.

The Tokyo programme will feature a variety of crew combinations and distance in both kayak (seated) and canoe (kneeling) formats for men and women.

Olympic medals have traditionally been shared across 46 different nations, with Germany (32), now-defunct Soviet Union (29) and Hungary (25) scooping the most golds.

But this is a sport where New Zealand has enjoyed considerable success over the years, with seven gold and 12 medals in total.

At Los Angeles 1984, we dominated the men’s schedule, with Ian Ferguson (K1 500), Alan Thompson (K1 1000), Ferguson and Paul MacDonald (K2 500), and Ferguson, MacDonald, Thompson and Grant Bramwell (K4 1000) leading a Kiwi gold rush.  

Ferguson and MacDonald repeated their success at Seoul four years later.

More recently, New Zealand has become a force in women’s competition, primarily through Lisa Carrington, who has won K1 200 gold at the last two Olympics.

She hasn’t been beaten over that distance since 2012 and will be a hot favourite to repeat at Tokyo, but will also chase success over 500m, while providing the foundation for formidable K2 and K4 crews.

NZ Team

Max Brown & Kurtis Imrie - men’s K2 1000

Lisa Carrington - women’s K1 200, K1 500

Caitlin Regal - women’s K1 500

Carrington & Regal - women’s K2 500

Teneale Hatton & Alicia Hoskin - women’s K2 500

Carrington, Hatton, Hoskin & Regal - women’s K4 500

Five to Watch

Jessica Fox (Australia)

Slalom canoeist Fox, 27, was born into the sport with French mother Myriam, a twice world champion who claimed a canoeing bronze medal at Atlanta 1996, and British father Richard, who won five world titles.

Fox, who is coached by her mother, sits atop the world rankings, both in kayak and canoe slalom, which will be included for women in the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo.

Fox took a silver medal in the kayak singles slalom at London 2012 and a bronze at the same event in Rio de Janeiro four years later.

Australian slalom exponent Jessica Fox
Australian slalom exponent Jessica Fox. Photo credit: Getty

Saeid Fazioula (Refugee Team)

Born in Iran and now living in Germany, Fazioula, 28, will debut in Olympic canoeing at Tokyo as a member of the refugee team.

The German Canoe Association and German government backed Fazioula's bid for inclusion in the refugee team, praising his efforts at integrating into German society.

The kayak sprinter arrived in Germany in 2015 and missed out on the Rio 2016 Games. According to the Infomigrants website, Fazioula, who competed for Iran, fled his home country, after he was arrested and accused of converting to Christianity on his return from the world championships in Milan, Italy, where he had taken a photograph of himself outside the city's Duomo Cathedral.

Sergei Tarnovschi (Moldova)

For Tarnovschi, 23, the one-year delay to Tokyo 2020 provided a chance for redemption, allowing him to serve out a four-year ban imposed, after a positive drugs test at the Rio Games and qualify for the 1000 metre canoe sprint at Tokyo.

Tarnovschi, who was stripped of his bronze medal in 2016, says his return to Olympic competition has not been welcomed by all his fellow athletes.

"Some of the athletes welcome me, some don't like me - It's a choice for everyone," he said at a sprint meeting in Russia, where he beat the Russian paddler awarded the bronze he lost in Rio, Ilia Shtokalov.

Dong Zhang (China)

Kayaker Dong, 24, won a place at the Tokyo Games with victory in the 1000 meter kayak single sprint at the Olympic qualifier in May.

That victory secured China places in all the canoe sprint events scheduled in Tokyo, as more countries challenge European nations that have dominated the sport for decades.

Zhang, who has competed in canoeing since he was 15, is seen as one of China's best hopes of an individual medal in Olympic canoeing.

Maialen Chourraut (Spain)

Tokyo 2020 will be the fourth consecutive Olympic Games for veteran paddler Chourraut, 38, who will defend her kayak slalom title. In addition to the gold she won at Rio four years ago, she picked up Spain's first canoe slalom medal at London 2012, where she grabbed the bronze.

Trained by husband Xabier Extaniz, who was also Spain national slalom coach, Chourraut says she pushes herself hard and, according to her International Canoe Federation profile, trained when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter, who was born in 2013.

Chourraut has been training on France's Reunion island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar.