Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

CANOE SPRINT

Canoeing is one of the most physically-demanding sports around, and its roots can actually be traced way back to ancient times.


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Paddlers in action in the canoe sprint. (© Press Association)

Paddlers in action in the canoe sprint.

Canoe Sprint

Canoeing is one of the most physically-demanding sports around, and its roots can actually be traced way back to ancient times.

The first evidence of a canoe was found near the Euphrates River in Asia and was more than 6,000 years old.

Early civilisations would hollow out trees to use as primitive boats for the purposes of transport, fishing and hunting, but it was not until the 1860s that canoeing first started to take shape as a sporting past-time.

British explorer John MacGregor adapted the ancient kayak designs and provided the inspiration for people to compete in regattas, and by 1865 the Royal Canoe Club was formed in the UK - the first of its kind.

The sport grew in popularity as Britons introduced the concept to other countries, and in 1924 a demonstration flatwater canoe competition was staged at the Olympics.

The sport gained full medal status at Berlin 1936 and while some races were held up to 10,000m in the early days, in recent times the trend has developed towards far shorter, faster races that have given rise to the discipline of canoe sprint.

In the current format of canoe sprint, paddlers compete in either kayaks or canoes, which are much narrower in design than those used in canoe slalom events to allow for higher speeds on still waters.

The kayak is a closed-top boat propelled from a seating position using a double-handed paddle. The canoe, meanwhile, is operated using a single-bladed paddle from a kneeling position.

The structure of major international canoe sprint competitions, like the one at London 2012, sees paddlers do battle against each other in straight head-to-head races in lanes over distances ranging from 200m to 1000m.

Strength, speed, stamina and co-ordination are all needed in equal measure to emerge victorious and claim the place at the top of the podium.

Men race in both canoes and kayaks at the Olympics, while women compete only in kayaks.

Men's races take place in single and double canoes, while both the men and the women compete in single, double or quadruple boats in the kayak events.

In all canoe sprint events, athletes compete in a series of heats to try and make a final where the medals are decided.

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