Slalom racing is one of two Olympic canoeing disciplines. Racing takes place in singles and doubles (men only), in kayak and canoe (men only) classes. Race are held at local, state and national regattas at junior and senior level, in classes for men, women and veterans.
The first wild water slalom competitions were held in Switzerland in 1933. In slalom competitions each athlete completes two runs of the course on a route with 20 gates suspended over the river.
The competitions are against the clock and the result of each round is obtained by adding the time taken in seconds, and adding the penalties awarded at each gate by a judge. In a normal race, it is the best run of the two that counts.
For big international events there are three rounds, Qualification, Semi-Final and Final. Paddlers get two runs in the Qualification round with their best run counting. The paddlers progressing through to the Semi-Final, where the slate is wiped clean, get one run with top 10 results from the Semi-Final. In the Final, paddlers are ranked in reverse order from their Semi-Final result and again they get one run that determines their final ranking.
The International Canoeing Federation has a long tradition of slalom competitions. They formed part of the programme of the Olympic Games held in Augsburg (Munich, Germany, 1972), La Seu d”Urgell (Barcelona, Spain, 1992), Ocoee (Atlanta, USA, 1996) and in Penrith (Sydney, AUS, 2000). World Championships have been held since 1949.
The World Cup, which was given official status in 1993, is held yearly, and consists of three competitions programmed on at least two continents. The freshness and spectacular nature of wild water competitions always assures wide TV coverage. At the present time there are canoeing federations in 107 countries, including all the major industrialised nationals. Slalom is practised in 45 of these, with France, Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy and Slovakia leading the way in Europe, and USA, Canada and Australia in the other continents.