New at the Olympics, the 200m events offer another example of a sport showcasing a condensed format to maximise excitement, much as cricket has done with Twenty20.
David Owen, Inside The Games
There’s no doubt that introducing 200m into the Olympic canoeing programme was an inspired move. It’s generated spectator interest, revitalised a sport where there was little to choose between the two key distances, 1,000m and 500m, with often the same athletes winning medals at both.
Some aspects of the Olympic regatta where less than satisfactory. The sight of five competitors racing at less than 100% effort in heats because they knew that five would qualify for semi-finals did the sport no good at all. Better-informed commentators, such as Ivan Lawler, criticise the continental qualification system, pointing out that to get to the Games as a European athlete is far, far harder than it is if you’re, for instance, from a continent where there are many fewer competitive countries.
As enjoyable as it is sometimes for the media and the public to cheer home a plucky/gallant/hopeless (delete as applicable) loser in an event, the reality is that some world class athletes didn’t come to the Games because their countries simply didn’t qualify enough places in enough events.
Time was, the Olympic Games canoe regattas saw heats, repechages, semi-finals and finals, all packed with competitors doing their utmost to get through the qualifying rounds. Pressure on numbers is such that these scenes aren’t going to happen again in canoeing – federations are under the cosh to keep athlete numbers down.
One thing the canoeing authorities have to get to grips with is what they do about the many disparities between men’s and women’s canoe/kayak events. In sprint canoe, there are different distances for men and women. There are also different events. There’s no Canadian canoeing representation in either sprint or slalom, for example. This is not justifiable in an age of equality between the sexes in every other walk of life.
Yes, there are very serious issues about the depth of women’s Canadian canoeing and these have got to be fixed to avoid canoeing becoming a laughing stock. No one wants to see canoe sprint races with people who can’t paddle their boats in a straight line. But, let’s be honest, there are big questions about the depth of men’s Canadian canoeing too – at what point does Canadian canoeing, contested by just 25 separate National Olympic Committees in the C1 200m event, become too small to justify inclusion in the programme at all?
There’s also talk about new events, such as 200m relays? They’d be exciting, much like relays in athletics. And women’s K2 200m – but, of course, if you introduce extra women’s K2 events at the shorter distance, which on an equality basis it would appear hard to object to, what events will have to go to make way for them?
In an interview on Sportscene, ICF President José Perurena López says that leveling the playing field in terms of gender representation is his “top” priority.
He told Sportscene: “It’s clear that for future Olympic Games we want to have equality amongst the men and women events. It will work. I don’t know (about) 2020, but sure in 2024 here will be equality. In Sprint and Slalom.
“It’s not possible that we continue without including ladies in all the events in the Olympic Games.
According to the ICF President, the federation’s “full and first priority” to introduce the Women’s Canoe Single (Women’s C1) to the Olympic slalom program, if not in Rio in time for the 2020 Olympic Games. Sportscene noted that the International Olympic Committee has agreed to include Women’s Canoe (Sprint and Slalom) to the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
But, as we’ve pointed out above, Women’s Canadian Canoeing will have to grow considerably to justify its inclusion in the Olympic Games programme.
“The problem for us is also the quota (of events in Canoeing). We have a very small quota. In Barcelona 1992, we introduced the Slalom in the Olympic Games. After Atlanta (in 1996), the IOC wanted to take the Slalom out of the Olympic Programme but we persuaded them not to.”
“They agreed, but only if we use our quota for sprint and slalom combined. We need more quota places if we want to include more women. Without that, it’s difficult,” Perurena López added.