Australia and Olympic Canoe/Kayak
Australia first competed in canoe/kayak in Melbourne in 1956 and Dennis Green and Wally Brown won a bronze medal in the now discontinued K2 10,000m event. Green ultimately competed in five Olympics and carried the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony at Munich 1972. The second Australian canoe/kayak medal came in Moscow 1980 when John Sumegi finished second in the K1 500m. He also finished a close fourth in the 1000m.
Australia’s first gold medal in the sport almost went to Grant Davies in the K1 1000m at Seoul 1988. Initially it was thought that Davies had won the event and he even signed to collect the gold medal. On closer inspection of the finish, the officials reversed the initial result, giving the gold medal to Greg Barton of the United States by a victory margin of .005 seconds. Davies was gracious in accepting the result when he said words to the effect, "If that's the worst thing that will happen to me in my life, then I won’t be too badly off."
Clint Robinson broke through for Australia’s first gold medal when he won the K1 1000m in Barcelona 1992. With a bronze medal in the K1 1000m at Atlanta 1996 and a silver medal, with Nathan Baggaley, in the K2 500m at Athens 2004, Robinson is Australia's most-decorated Olympic paddler.
In 2008 Ken Wallace emerged as Australia’s new flatwater champion, winning gold in the K1 500m and bronze in the K1 1000m. The women's K4 500m also secured bronze.
London 2012 again saw Australia take home gold when the Aussie team of Murray Stewart, David Smith, Tate Smith and Jacob Clear took out the K4 1000m. In a near-perfect race, the Australians held a 0.09 second lead at the halfway mark before going on to claim victory by 0.61 seconds ahead of Hungary at the Eton Dorney course.
Australia’s white-water slalom canoeists first competed in Barcelona and Danielle Woodward won the silver medal in the women’s K1 event. In Beijing 2008, Robin Bell bettered his fourth from Athens, winning bronze in the men’s C1. Teammate Jacqueline Lawrence was a surprise silver medallist in the women's K1 event. In 2012 at just 18 years of age, Youth Olympic Champion Jess Fox shocked the London field to finish with the silver medal in the women's K1 event.
The sport of canoe/kayak was a demonstration sport at Paris 1924. Flatwater canoeing made its debut as a full Olympic sport in Berlin in 1936. Women paddlers first competed at London 1948.
Slalom events first appeared in Munich in 1972 and then not again until Barcelona 1992, where it was held on a specially built artificial course. It has been on the program ever since and continues to be one of the spectacles of the Games.
For London 2012, flatwater has changed its name to sprint, the women’s K1 200m event has been added and men’s C2 500m removed. The remaining three men’s 500m sprint events changed to a 200m distance.
There are two different types of craft: canoes and kayaks. The key differences are the position of the paddler, the type of paddle used and the style of boat.
Canoes are paddled from a kneeling position with a single bladed paddle. The craft carry one (C1) or two (C2) athletes and the events are open to men only. Sprint racing canoes are open-deck craft; slalom canoes are closed.
Kayaks are closed and paddled from a sitting position. In sprint racing they are controlled by a mechanism controlled by the feet. The paddle has a blade at both ends. Slalom kayaks have a single paddler; sprint kayaks have one (K1), two (K2) or four (K4) paddlers. Kayaks are raced by men and women.