Olympic Preview: Boating

 

The Boating category in the Olympics is self-explanatory as it involves any sport with a boat or ship and an athlete. The boating events are simply about the marriage of an athlete and their equipment. There are a number of different sports in this grouping some are about the short distance and pure power while others are about the stamina and wherewithal to perform over a long period of time. The Boating grouping includes Canoe Slalom, Kayak Slalom, Canoe Sprint, Kayak Sprint, Rowing, and Sailing. These sports are yet another group of sports that reflect the uniqueness of the Olympics. Many of these sports are not very popular in the sports world unless you are from very specific areas. Canoes, Kayaks, and Rowing are typically used more in Canada and Eastern Europe which makes them some of the top athletes in these sports. Meanwhile Sailing has been a pastime in Britain for decades and this has reflected in the Olympic sport. These sports reflect a grouping of sports that many do not get to see often like many of the Olympic Sports. Yet when they are broadcast there are many places who watch closely in hopes that they can win in the sport that they can connect to. It is one of the things that make the Olympics so great, that so many sports mean a chance to see different athletes and countries compete in these sports. It is not simply a showcase of how good one country can be and instead is a showcase of the talents in the countries from around the world. These countries will be on display in the boating category as countries from around the world cheer on some of their national heroes.

 

Canoe/Kayak Slalom

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1972

Most Medals: Germany, 24 (10 Gold)

 

The Canoe/Kayak Slalom events can also be known as the whitewater Canoe/Kayak and are officially known as Canoe Slalom by the IOC. These events also represent some of the more thrilling sports in the Summer Olympics. Instead of a sport that is purely about the athlete performing against other athletes it is about the athlete battling the elements. Of course through the years the whitewater rapids have moved away from natural rapids and into man-made rapids. These man-made rapids are more predictable but are still rough rapids that the athletes need to compete in. The Competition is divided into two different disciplines but are governed under the same basic rules. These disciplines are separated mainly by paddle and boat type as the Kayak features a paddle with two blades that is held horizontal and the Canoe features a paddle with only one blade and held vertically. There are also divisions for men and women and a doubles event. The Kayaks feature both women and men while the Canoes do not have a women’s competition, despite the lobby to make it an Olympic Sport, but do have a men’s double competition. Every competition goes through the same process on the man-made course that can be adjusted to increase the difficulty of the rapids. The competition will feature only one setting for the rapids depending on how difficult they want to make it. The course is a 300-500 metre course that will feature 25 gates. These gates are the goal of each athlete as they are required to pass through each gate without touching the sides. The gates hang above the water and are marked either green or red. These colours tell the athletes to either go through the gate downstream, green, or to go upstream, red. Clearly the red gates are more difficult and there must be a minimum of 6 of them on the course. Each missed or hit gate is a time penalty and the goal is to get through the course in the least amount of time in your two attempts on course. It is an extremely tough sport as athletes must attempt to control their vessels through the raging waters but still be able to get through the course quickly. These athletes will attempt to do this for the greatest prize in their sport as they London Olympics get underway.

 

Who to Watch:

Alexander Grimm (Germany)

– Grimm is the man to beat in the Kayak discipline as he has won almost everything an athlete can win in the past few years including the 2010 and 2011 World Championship as well as the all important 2008 Beijing Gold Medal as he looks to repeat in London

 

Elena Kaliska (Slovakia)

– A legend in the Kayak for women, Kaliska will likely make her final appearance in the Olympics at London and will simply want to add to an already impressive list of accomplishments that include a 2005 and 2011 World Championship as well as a 2004 and 2008 Olympic Gold

 

Peter & Pavol Hochschorner (Slovakia)

– The superstars of the Men’s double event the Hochschorner brothers bring a new meaning to the twin connection as they have racked up 6 World Championships and 3 Olympic Gold Medals and they will look to add more this year

 

Canadian Content:

Michael Tayler (Ottawa, ON)

– Tayler will be making his Olympic debut at London after he was named to the Olympic team with a solid junior career behind him where he won five junior national Gold medals and the best finish for a Canadian at the World junior Championships (13th)

 

Canoe/Kayak Sprint

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1924

Most Medals: Germany, 233 (107 Gold)

 

It is not as intense as its close cousin the Slalom but the Canoe Sprint can be just as dramatic with the race format. The Canoe Sprint is one of the many racing events in the summer Olympics and can essentially be considered a version of a very popular sport. The Track sports in the Olympics are the highlight of the event and are generally short and long distance races between athletes. The Canoe Sprint is this but with a boat and with the concentration on the upper body rather than the lower body. Like the Slalom the Sprint is split into two different disciplines, the Canoe and the Kayak. Unlike the Slalom the difference between both is much greater. For the Kayak athletes sit in the vessel and use a paddle with two blades to propel themselves. In the Canoe athletes kneel and use a paddle with one blade to propel themselves in the water. The Canoe position can be extremely difficult as the athletes need to find the balance between balance and power or they will fall into the water. The competition in the Olympics is broken up between men and women and then the division moves into distance and amount of people in the vessel. There are two distances for both men including the 200m and 1,000m while the women’s distances include 200m and 500m. Each distance has a Kayak and a Canoe event although the women do not compete in the Canoe events. For the men’s 200m races there are a one person Canoe, one person Kayak, and a two person Kayak. For the 1,000m races there are a one person Canoe, two person Canoe, one person Kayak, two person Kayak, and four person Kayak. The women have the one person Kayak for 200m and the one person Kayak, two person Kayak, and four person Kayak for the 500m. Each distance and division runs through a typical race format with heats moving into finals. Racers line up nine vessels wide with the top racers moving on until the finals. It may not be as dramatic as the whitewater but anytime that the best athletes in the world line up for races is always an exciting time as they try to determine who is the best on the flatwater.

 

Who to Watch:

Attila Vajda (Hungary)

– Vajda will enter his third Olympic Games at London and will do so as the defending champion in the C1 1,000m both in the World Championships and the 2008 Olympics as he continues to be a hero in Hungary

 

Ivan Shtyl (Russia)

– For the first time ever the C1 200m will make its debut and a favorite to win after winning Gold in the 2010 World Championships and Silver in the 2011 World Championships after he refocused his talents on the distance after learning it would be added to the Olympic Roster

 

Canadian Content:

Adam van Koeverden (Oakville, ON)

– He is one of the biggest names in Canadian Olympics and has become a constant medal hope as the golden boy for kayaking in Canada he will be looking to add to his collection of three medals (1G, 1S, 1B) in the K1 500m and K1 1,000m

 

Mark Oldershaw (Burlington, ON)

– Canada has always been a factor in Canoe and Kayak and the Oldershaw family has been there since the start as Mark will be the 5th member of his family to compete in the Olympics and he will be looking for Canada’s second gold medal in the C1-1,000m

 

Mark de Jong (Halifax, NS)

– He has never competed in the Olympics before but only because he specializes in the K1 200m which will make its debut in the 2012 Olympics as de Jong looks to become the first Olympic Gold medalist in the event

 

Rowing:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1900

Most Medals: Germany, 119 (60 Gold)

 

The boating grouping of sports is quite a contrast as the Canoes and Kayaks represent the newer sports, especially the Slalom. Rowing is the exact opposite of the Slalom though as it represents one of the proudest traditions in the Olympics. This becomes especially true in London this year as rowing has been a part of the English sports world for centuries. The tradition in England has been one of the upper class like those who were able to attend schools like Oxford. It has been one of the most posh and proper sports in the Olympics leading to the British Commonwealth to dominate in medals. Then the revolution came when the Eastern European teams began winning which is when the Germans took over. The Germans will again look to assert their dominance but as with many Olympic sports anybody can win at any moment. Rowing has a few divisions in their competition aside from the usual Male and Female divisions that are in almost every sport. The first division is between the lightweight and heavyweight athletes were athletes are restricted by their weight to which division they are in. This division is based in the thought that taller more muscular athletes get an advantage and therefore the lighter athletes get their own division to compete in. With the weight division there is also the sweep and sculls divisions. The Sweep division is a division where each athlete controls one oar while sculls division is when each athlete controls two oars. Each event is based on the scull or sweep division, lightweight or heavyweight division, and then the number of rowers in the boat. For the Sweep rowers there are Men’s Pairs, Women’s Pairs, Men’s Four, Men’s Eight, Women’s Eight, and Men’s Lightweight Fours. For the Scull division there is Men’s Single, Women’s Single, Men’s Double, Women’s Double, Men’s Lightweight double, Women’s Lightweight Double, Men’s Quadruple, Women’s Quadruple. All divisions are run the same was as they follow the basic race format. Every race features a maximum of six boats who race head to head with the first two boats to cross the line move on. The races continue until the final race where the gold medalist is crowned. This year rowing will be a big draw for a traditionally English sport but who will be able to take home the medals?

 

Who to Watch:

Olaf Tufte (Norway)

– Tufte has been one of the top Olympic performers in the Men’s Single Sculls as he is the two-time Olympic Champion winning in 2004 and 2008 but now will be his biggest challenge as he looks to be the third man to win three Olympic Golds in a row in the Men’s Single Sculls

 

Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus)

– Karsten is the legend of Women’s Single Sculls as she has won five Olympic medals in five Olympic appearances that has made her the most decorated athlete in the history of the Women’s Single Sculls and will look to add to an impressive resume in London

 

Ondej Synek (Czech Republic)

– he won Silver in 2008 behind Olaf Tufte but since then has been one of the best Men’s Single Scull rowers on the circuit appearing on the podium in his first seven international regattas culminating in a World Championship in 2010 and will look to add an Olympic Gold to his accomplishments

 

Canadian Content:

Lesley Thompson-Willie (London, ON)

– A member of the Women’s 8, Thompson-Willie is looking to add to her legendary career in what will likely be her last Olympics as she tries to become the first Canadian athlete to win medals in 5 different Olympics while breaking all of the age records along the way

 

Andreanne Morin (Montreal, QC)

– Another member of the Women’s 8 Morin is on her way to a lifetime in the Olympics as a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency Athletic Committee and the Athletic Commission of the COC but will be looking to end her career with a gold medal in London

 

Men/Women’s 8 Teams

– The Canadians have always been a team based country and this becomes true in rowing as the Men’s and Women’s eights are two of the biggest medal hopes with the men acting as the defending Olympic Champions and the women looking better than ever on their quest for gold

 

Sailing:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1900

Most Medals: Great Britain, 49 (24)

 

Sailing is a close relative of rowing as both have been in the Olympics since the very start of the modern version of the games. Like Rowing the first appearance of sailing in the Olympics was supposed to be in 1896 but bad weather forced both events to be cancelled. Since 1900 though sailing has been a part of the Olympic Games and has represented another old style sport. It is another sport that harks back to an old sport that will be a big draw for the British fans. A large part of this is because they are simply good at the sport and the other is that sailing has been a part of society for centuries in Britain. Sailing is a difficult sport to master as it takes knowledge of how to use wind and how to manipulate your boat while racing to make it go as fast as possible while remaining in control. Sailing is broken up into two different races for the 2012 London Olympics that feature very different challenges. First is the match race where two boats and crews go head-to-head through a course where the first to cross the line wins. The second division is the fleet race where all of the boats and crews begin at the same time in a series of 10 races, 15 for the 49er class, where points are assigned for positions. The next division of events is by boat class as every boat class competes in both styles of racing. The boat divisions include the Men’s Finn, Women’s Elliott 6m, Men’s Star, Men’s 49er, Men’s Laser, Women’s Laser Radial, Men’s RS:X (Windsurfer), Women’s RS:X (Windsurfer), Men’s 470, Women’s 470. In match racing the competition starts with a round robin stage where they eliminate the losers throughout the tournament. In fleet racing there are a total of 10 races, 15 for the 49er, where points are assigned for the position and the lowest scores moving to the finals. In the final race points are again assigned but are doubled and added to the preliminary race scores to determine the top 10 positions. For Britain this will be one of their biggest medal hopes as they look to continue to dominate in sailing and would love to do so at home in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Ben Ainslie (Great Britain)

– Ainslie is the brightest star for Britain in sailing as one of the top sailors in the world with three Olympic Golds, one in Laser and two in Finn, as well as 11 World Championships including the 2012 world championship as he looks to continue his success in front of his home crowd

 

Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout (Netherlands)

– This team in the 470 class of boats has been a power house but lately have not done as well finishing in 10th place in the 2011 World Championship, they will try to improve this though as they move into the Olympics and try to spoil the party for the Brits

 

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (Great Britain)

– This team in the Star Class has been on top of the sailing world for Great Britain as they won the 2008 Beijing Gold Medal and came in second place in the 2012 World Championship and will look to win another Gold at home in London

 

Canadian Content:

Tyler Bjorn (Beaconsfield, QC)

– One of the main figures in the Canadian sailing team Bjorn is one of the limited medal hopefuls for sailing as a silver medalist in the 2010 World Championship in the star class he will look to continue a family tradition and hopefully win a medal for Canada

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