Canoe sprint takes place on a flatwater course and races are contested by two types of boat, canoe (C) and kayak (K). In a canoe, the paddler competes in a striding position using a single-blade paddle, in contrast to the double-bladed paddle used in a sitting position in a kayak. At international level the discipline is competed at four distances from 200m to 5000m, both individually and in teams of up to four. Each discipline is categorised by boat type, number of competitors per boat, gender, and race distance, meaning the example of C2M 500m is the canoe male doubles 500m.
Competitive canoe sprint racing dates back to 1869 in Great Britain, but it was more than 50 years until the first international body for canoe sport was formed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1924. Canoe sprint made its debut at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 with nine men’s events, with that number reduced to eight in London 12 years later to accommodate the first women’s race at the Games, the K1W 500m won by Denmark’s Karen Hoff. Canoe sprint has featured in every Games since, and the 2016 programme in Rio de Janeiro will consist of eight men’s and four women’s events.