Welcome to the 2017 season

Our website will shortly be updated so that you can book and pay for your paddling online. Until then, reach us by phone, or by email at enquiries@chesterkayakhire.co.uk, where there will always be a prompt and friendly reply. See you on the river soon!

Tel: 01244 422007

A history of canoeing at the Olympic Games

Canoeists can be broadly split into two camps; those who do it for fun and those who view it as serious competition. The International Olympic Committee certainly seems to understand the later attitude and, since 1936, the sport has been an ever-present event in the Summer Olympic Games.

Paris 1924: an invitation

Canoeing first splashed down at the Olympic Games as a demonstration sport in 1924, when the organisers invited the Canadian Olympic Committee to showcase it. Competitors rode as singles, pairs or teams of four oarsmen, and used both single-end and double-end paddles resembling what we would now use to manoeuvre canoes and kayaks respectively. Canada and the USA were the only nations to take part and, of the six races, they won three apiece

1936 to 1968: European dominance

Berlin 1936 saw canoeing become an official Olympic sport and the number of events rise to nine, and it was the beginning of a pattern of strong performances from central European nations. Austria claimed three golds in the sport’s maiden Olympic year, while Germany and Czechoslovakia bagged two each.

After World War II, the London 1948 games continued in much the same vein, with the Czech and Sweden collecting three medals each. That year also saw the first women’s event, won by Denmark’s Karen Hoff.

Over the next 20 years, the sport continued to be allocated eight or nine sprint events every year, and nations like Finland (1952) and Romania (1956) began to make a name for themselves in canoeing circles.

1972 to 1988: the slalom arrives and the Russians make a splash

At Munich 1972, the sprints events were accompanied by the newly introduced slalom. It was dominated by the East and West Germans, who took 13 of the 16 medals available between them, but the slalom didn’t return to the Games until 1992.

The 1972 event also saw the serious emergence of the Soviet Union in the sport. Six gold medals were collected by Russian sprint canoeists and kayakers that year, and a haul more would be before the breakup of the USSR in 1991.

Post-1992: Britain makes a ripple

For those wondering where Great Britain is in all of this, it wasn’t until Barcelona 1992 that we won our first medal. Gareth Marriot became the first British canoeist to stand on the podium when he claimed silver in the men’s C-1 slalom event of that year. It would be another 16 years before a gold in canoeing would make its way back to British shores though, as Tim Brabants stormed the K-1 1000-metre sprint at Beijing 2008.

As with many events, London 2012 proved to be our best Games to date for canoeing, as two golds, a silver and a bronze were collected on home soil.

Best Olympic canoeing nations

Historically, the sport has been dominated by Russia and Germany. The all-time gold medals table is headed by the Soviet Union, with Germany close behind, which is all the more impressive given that the former stopped competing in 1988, and the latter was split into two countries from 1956 to 1988.

In total, no fewer than 42 nations have collected canoeing medals at the Olympic Games, and the African nation of Togo picked up its first medal in any sport in Beijing 2008, when Benjamin Boukpeti took bronze in the men’s K-1 slalom.