UNDERSTANDING THE SPORT:Canoe sprint

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HOW IT ALL BEGAN

From North America, all the way to Polynesia and even Greenland, kayaks have been used for different purposes throughout history. Originally intended for hunting and fishing, they were made with animal fur stretched over a wooden frame. Canoe races became more popular in the early 20th century, and the 1930s were crucial to boosting their popularity. Speed canoing made its official debut at the Berlin 1936 Games and since then has been a permanent event in the Games programme. The Paralympic canoe event was first introduced in the 2010 World Championship, in Poland, and is among the disciplines that will debut in the 2016 Paralympic programme. Because it is very recent, competition is still restricted to athletes with physical impairments.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

While there are two types of boats in the Olympic competitions, canoes and kayaks (identified by the letters C – canoe -, and K – kayak -, respectively), the Paralympic Games will only host kayak events. The competition takes place in 200m straight-line courses. The winner is the athlete that completes the distance in the least amount of time. Events begin with five heats, each with two boats. The winner of each heat advances directly to the finals, while the other competitors go on to the semi-finals. The three top-ranked competitors in the semi-finals compete in the finals. There are three functional classes in Paralympic canoe events: KL1 (sum of three points), KL2 (four to seven points), and KL3 (eight or nine points). In the classification system, the athlete’s points are according to their leg and trunk movement, potential and to an assessment on the water while rowing. The higher the score, the greater the athlete’s functional potential.

DID YOU KNOW?

A four-time world champion, two-time Pan American champion and three-time South American champion, Fernando Fernandes, from São Paulo, became known for participating in a reality show before the accident that left him paraplegic.

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