Competition Format and Rules & Regulations


Olympic Competition Format

There will be eight competition lanes.

Depending on the number of entries, each event will consist of:

  • Heats
  •  Semifinals
  • A and B finals (A finals are the medal races)

In all events except the men’s and women’s Kayak Four (K4) and any event in which there are less than 11 entries, B finals will be held in order to determine placings from 9th to 16th.


Number of entries
Number of heats
Progression from Heats
Number of semifinals

Progression from semifinals
9-10 boats
Winners of each heat progress directly to the final. The remaining boats compete in the semifinal

1st – 6th to A Final

1st – 5th in each heat progress to semifinals. The remaining boats progress to B Final.

1st – 4th to A Final. The remaining boats to B Final

1st - 6th in each heat progress to semifinals. The remaining boats progress to B Final

1st – 4th to A Final. The remaining boats to B Final

1st – 5th in each heat plus the best 6th placed time progress to semifinals. The remaining boats are eliminated.

1st – 4th to A Final. The remaining boats to B Final



Differences between the ICF World Championships and Olympic Games

  • The World Championships has 31 events (and includes Para Canoe Sprint classes and demonstration events) while there are only 12 events at the Olympic Games.

Changes since the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

  • The number of men’s classes has reduced from nine to eight and the number of women’s classes has increased from three to four
  • All of the men’s 500m events (in both kayak and canoe) have been replaced by 200m sprint events
  • The ICF has removed one lane on the course (from nine to eight lanes) to bring Canoe Sprint in line with other sports like athletics and swimming
  • The ICF has introduced B finals for some events to allow placings for 8th to 16th place. In the past only the first nine athletes were ranked

Sport Rules and Procedures

Race distances

1000m, 500m and 200m



The winning boat is the one whose bow (the tip of the boat) crosses the finish line first

Lane assignments

  • Heats: the winners of the previous World Championships will compete in the centre lanes
  •  Semifinals: the winners of the heats will compete in the centre lanes
  • Finals: the winners of the semifinals (or heats subject to the race progression system) will compete in the centre lanes

Team member changes

NOC’s are allowed to change the sitting order (but not names) of the competitors in crew boats up to the point of the Team Leader’s meeting.



  • If an athlete misses their first start time, they may be excluded for the rest of the Olympic Games
  • A boat causing two false starts will be disqualified from that event
  • A boat breaking the four metre ‘centre lane’ rule (see below), or racing with a boat which does not comply with the rules, will be disqualified from that event by the Competition Committee
  •  If a boat capsizes before it crosses the line, it will be disqualified from the race
  • There are other possible situations which can lead to disqualifications including underweight boats and illegal advertising.

Four metre ‘centre-lane’ rule

Athletes must keep the whole of their boat within the four-metre wide central area of their nine metre lane, from the start to finish of their race. If a boat leaves the centre of the lane and does not return to it, the boat may be disqualified from the race. .

Tie-Break Rules

If a dead heat between boats occurs in a heat or semifinal, all tied boats will qualify if there are enough available lanes in the next round (including the additional lane ‘0’). If there are no lanes available in the next round a re-race of all tied places will take place one hour after the last race in the session. If a dead heat occurs in a medal match, additional medals will be awarded.

Penalties / Disqualification Rules

The Competition Committee may impose the following penalties on competitors:
• Warning
• Disqualification
• Exclusion

Protests / Appeals

A boat can make a protest against the Competition Committee’s decision within twenty minutes of the finish of a race. They may appeal to the jury within the following twenty minutes if they do not agree with the Competition Committee’s decision.

Download the ICF Canoe Sprint Rule Book HERE.

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