C1 – Canadian Single

C1 is the focus of today’s post. C1 is thrilling to watch and an excellent way of analysing canoe slalom. On Monday and Tuesday we examined K1M and K1W respectively. Today is C1 (pronounced see-one), meaning for the Olympics a male athlete kneeling in a closed cockpit canoe with a single bladed paddle. Again let’s look at the equipment, pros and cons and some top paddlers past and present to look out for.

Inside the cockpit of a C1 (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The C1 paddler kneels on pre-formed padded foam blocks inside the cockpit. They then sit back on their heels supported by the foam block and tighten straps across the knees. This prevents them sliding forwards as well as ensuring that, like in a kayak, the C1 becomes an extension of their body. The extra height above the water gives the belief that the C1 is less stable than a kayak. The International Canoe Federation again has specifications for the C1, which must be 350cm long, 65cm wide and weigh not less than 10kg. The paddler again wears a slightly more rounded spraydeck round their chest & waist which prevents water getting inside the boat. If the C1 capsizes and the paddler is unable to roll up they pull a loop on the spraydeck and easily fall out of the boat upside down.

The C1 gives the paddler much greater height above the boat, this means they have much greater reach with the paddle and can use their whole body to create big strokes. They can also reach further through the gate or into a breakout. Because they are kneeling in the boat, all their body weight falls through the centreline of the boat and so it will spin much faster than a kayak. With the extra body weight and longer paddle above the boat the C1 paddler can also pivot turn in spectacular fashion, sinking the entire back of the boat under the water with one powerful stroke. This is really stunning to watch in high level competition. Forward paddling is tougher and requires more practice to execute well than in a kayak. C1 is so technically demanding that the key is to start young and spend lots of time on whitewater. Sydney Olympic gold medallist, Tony Estanguet started at the age of 5.

A C1 paddler either paddles naturally on the left (lefty) or on the right of the boat (righty). When they then paddle on the opposite side of the boat they are said to be on the cross-bow. For the C1 paddling in slalom it means that for a lefty C1 it is easier to do a breakout of the left hand side of the boat than the right. In competition there should be a minimum of six upstream (red and white) gates and so the course designer must ensure that a lefty or righty C1 have the same challenge and opportunity. If all breakouts were on the left, the course would favour a lefty C1 and their run time would be expected to be quicker than a righty C1 who has to do all the breakouts on a cross-bow. I remember seeing lefty Michal Martikan do a cross-bow surf out of a breakout at World’s that other C1 paddlers did not think was possible on a cross-bow!

On modern, shorter, bigger whitewater courses like Lee Valley the slalom gate sequences are tighter with less opportunity to forward speed and so we see C1 run times very close to those of the K1s. In very tight courses the C1 could be quicker, because although they have less forward speed they can turn through breakouts and spins much faster than a kayak. Watching C1 has helped many K1 paddlers and made medal winning C2 crews out of former C1 paddlers.

David Florence heading into a right hand upstream on Lee Valley course (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The first strong nations were France, Czechoslovakia, East & West Germany and Switzerland. C1 was then dominated through from 1979 to 1989 by the iconic Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn from the US before 16 year old Michal Martikan from Liptovsky Mikulas in Slovakia won his first bronze medal at the Nottingham World’s in 1995! Michal & France’s Tony Estanguet started competing as juniors in 1994 and have then dominated both World Championships and Olympics from 2000 until now. The key question is how long this domination will last? Historically, the UK has been a kayak dominated nation in terms of medal performance at the World & Olympic level with the exceptions below.

I understand that Michal paddles with a C1 with much greater ‘rocker’ than is usual, meaning the curvature of the hull, this means that the boat has much greater manoeuvrability at the expense of forward speed and stability. C1 paddlers tell me few others are comfortable in a boat like Michal.

Double Olympic Champion lefty C1 Michal Martikan Slovakia (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Martyn Hedges (Bushy) was highly respected. In 1980 he won all the Europa Cup races. He died tragically two months before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. See last Sunday’s post which is a tribute to Bushy. Gareth Marriott then went on to gain Great Britain’s first ever Olympic canoe slalom medal with a silver in Barcelona. Gareth had superb reach and flair although a certain inconsistency, either utterly outstanding like the pre-Olympic gold in 1991 or blew out completely.

The GB World Championship individual C1 medallists are:

Martyn Hedges (Bronze Augsburg 1985) & Gareth Marriott (Bronze 1997 Tres Coroas)

GB Team C1 medallists are:

Martyn Hedges, Peter Keane & Jeremy Taylor (Bronze 1983 Meran), Mark Delaney, Bill Horsman & Gareth Marriott (Bronze 1991 Tacen & Silver 1993 Mezzana) & David Florence, Stu McIntosh & Dan Goddard (Bronze 2006 Prague).

GB Olympic C1 medallist are:

Gareth Marriott (Silver 1992 Barcelona) & David Florence (Silver 2008 Beijing).

GBR David Florence righty C1 on his cross bow during selection at Lee Valley (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Righty C1 paddler David Florence will represent Great Britain at the London2012 Olympics at Lee Valley later this month. David is the current ICF World ranked number 1 C1 paddler so will be last off in the C1 heat. He is unique among GB paddlers at a World level in competing in the same event in C1 and C2.

As part of the International Canoe Federation drive to greater gender equality C1W was introduced in 2009 as a World Championship demonstration sport and became a medal event the following year in Tacen. We look forward to C1W developing further and its hopeful inclusion in future Olympic Games. The top C1W to watch are currently Jana Dukatova (SVK), Leanne Guinea (AUS), Rosalyn Lawrence (AUS), Jessica Fox (AUS), Katerina Hoskova (CZE), Cen Nanqin (CHN), Katarina Macova ( SVK) and British number 1 C1W paddler, Mallory Franklin.

Tomorrow’s post will look at the C2.

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