246 athletes compete for just 12 gold medal places
Although both canoes and kayaks have been used for hunting and general transport they were only raced during the 19th century when John MacGregor began the Royal Canoe Club in 1866. Since then the sport has gone from strength to strength and there are now a wide range of races over both flat water and white water courses.
Canoes and kayaks are fundamentally different in that canoeists use just the one paddle and kneel up in the boat whereas kayakers have double paddles and sit in the kayak. For this reason, the two sports are seen as entirely different and have their own distinct events.
Flatwater races are over calm waters with distances ranging from 500 metres to 1000 metres in singles, pairs and teams of four. All races are completed on a one to one basis and the winner is the first one to cross the line. This is done on a knockout basis until a final two competitors are put against each other in the final race.
Slalom is slightly different in that it is conducted over a 300 metre long course but the waters are turbulent. There are a total of twenty five gates which must be passed through successfully. Penalty points are accumulated if the gates are not passed or if the poles are touched. The fastest to the end of the course, once all penalty points have been added is the winner.
Official Link: http://www.london2012.com/games/olympic-sports/canoe-sprint.php