History of Canoe Sprint

British explorer and travel writer John MacGREGOR is credited with transforming this ancient mode of transport into a sport. Having studied the Eskimo kayak, MacGREGOR founded the Royal Canoe Club in 1866.

Transatlantic competition followed soon after, with the New York Canoe Club opening in 1871.

The basic race rules were, and remain, simple: the first boat to cross the finish line wins.

The sport’s popularity grew steadily through the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, with the first international federation, the Internationale Reprasentantschaft fur Kanusport (IRK) founded in Denmark in 1924. It became the International Canoe Federation (ICF) in 1946.

Race distances have been reduced in recent years, making for a more exciting spectacle. At the inaugural ICF World Championships in 1970, the courses were set at 1000m and 10,000m for men and 5000m for women. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games the men will compete over 1000m and 200m, and the women over 500m and 200m. The 200m sprint was introduced at the London 2012 Games.

European nations have dominated Canoe Sprint, winning around 90% of the world championship and Olympic Games medals available to date. The sport has, however, stirred interest in all parts of the world. To date, there are 161 national federation members associated to the ICF with continental championships in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania.