To represent your country at an Olympic Games is the dream of athletes all over the world, the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifices.

Of course, not every athlete makes it. But in 12 months from today, a group of slalom, sprint and kayak cross competitors will be gathering in Paris, France, preparing to make their own history as they add their name to the glittering Olympian honour board.

Some will be making their Olympic debut. Others will be back again, having already been to two, three or even four Olympic Games. Some will already have Olympic medals.

A select few might even got the opportunity to carry their country’s flag at the opening ceremony on July 26.

For canoe sprint, this will be its 21st Olympic appearance, after debuting in Berlin in 1936. Slalom will be notching up its 10th Games, having debuted in Munich in 1972, and then returning to the program in Barcelona in 1992.

And all of it comes in the year the ICF celebrates its centenary, 100 years since the Internationale Reprasentantenschaft Kanusport was formed in Copenhagen on January 19, 1924.

Right now the Paris Olympics will seem like a long time away for most athletes, but it will be upon us a lot quicker than we think. As of today, not one athlete has been confirmed as a certain qualifier for Paris. Country quotas still need to be won, and then athletes need to earn the right to represent their federation.

In the coming weeks qualifiers will be held for both canoe sprint and canoe slalom. A handful of kayak cross quotas will be decided early next year. It’s a tense, nerve-wracking process for all involved.

Many say earning the quotas, and then winning the right to represent your country, is tougher than competing at the Olympics. Many of the world’s very best athletes will miss out. There will be major upsets in both Duisburg, where the canoe sprint world championships and Olympic qualifiers will be held, and at Lee Valley, home of this year’s slalom titles and Paris selections.

For those who miss out at their world championships, there will be a handful of quotas available at Continental championships. This really is the last chance saloon.

Next year there will be added excitement, with the addition of kayak cross to the Olympic program. The new format has two gold medals up for grabs, and is certain to capture the attention of a whole new audience of sport fans.

And for the athletes, the chance to once again compete in front of capacity Olympic crowds is a very attractive carrot. Tokyo had a very strange feel to it, with empty stands greeting competitors who had given their all to get to the biggest sporting stage in the world.

Family and friends were missing. Sure, it was still an Olympics, but of course it was not the same. In one year from today, fingers crossed, the fireworks, pomp and ceremony for a very different Games will signal to the world, and our slalom, sprint and kayak cross athletes, coaches and families, that the Olympics are back.

Over the next two weeks we will take an in depth look at every ICF medal event that will be contested in Paris, looking at the history of the race, some of the previous winners, and who might be the main contenders next year.

And with each day that passes, it’s one day closer to the 33rd summer Olympic Games. 

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom
Extreme Canoe Slalom
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