Overall, and as one might expect the qualification for nations for the Olympics is a little complex. In simple terms there were two qualification events, where nations often referred to as federations could qualify places for boats, in respective classes. The actual qualification, selection and nomination of the athletes to fill the places came much more recently. The nations qualified boat places through the 2011 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships and the Continental Olympic Qualification event. Still with me?
30 nations qualified one or more classes for the London Olympic canoe slalom. Technically, it was actually 29 nations and Togo gained a K1Men Tripartite Commission place.
Only 10 nations have qualified one boat in each class (K1M, K1W, C1 and C2), meaning they have 4 boats and five athletes, as the C2 includes two paddlers. In fact, Great Britain is the only nation to gain a 5th boat under a new rule for the Olympic Games introduced for London 2012, because the selected pair in the men’s C2 were also both selected in the individual classes and men’s C1 and men’s K1. This means GB is entitled to send a second men’s C2 boat to the Games.
On July 29th-30th the Lee Valley Whitewater centre will be welcoming 85 world class elite paddlers in 73 boats to compete for the four medal events. Based on our current assessment (unconfirmed), we anticipate the participating paddlers will include 5 Olympic gold medallist in canoe slalom from (1996-2008), 11 Olympic medallists, four current World Champions (K1M, K1W and C2) and the current ICF World ranked number 1 athletes at the end of June 2012 after World Cup 3. The standard will be exceedingly tough. Pavol and Peter Hochschorner are looking for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold in C2 and two paddlers won gold back in Atlanta in 1996 and have incredible race experience at this level.
Since canoe slalom returned to the Olympics in 1992 after a 20 year break the qualification system has changed substantially so that each nation now only has the ability to send one boat per class. So in each nation the stakes have gone up for that one Olympic qualification spot and we find ourselves in a position where defending Olympic or reigning World Champions may fail to qualify and so miss out on competing in London in just over 3 weeks.
Future posts in the coming weeks will explore the four respective classes in detail and the individual paddlers.