Laurence Vincent Lapointe, Katie Vincent pose gold medal threats in Olympic canoe

It will be the first time women will race in canoes at an Olympics, opening doors for world champions Laurence Vincent Lapointe and Katie Vincent to claim debut titles.

Everything you need to know about canoe kayak events in Tokyo 2020

Canadian paddlers Katie Vincent, left, and Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, right, are gold-medal hopefuls in canoe racing. (Equipe Canada/Twitter)

It will be the first time women race in canoes at an Olympics — a move in gender parity with Canada as the gold medal threat.

Canadians Laurence Vincent Lapointe and Katie Vincent will make a push for the podium when they hit the water in canoe sprint.

Vincent Lapointe, a 13-time world champion who almost missed Tokyo 2020, has dominated in the C1 200-metre. She's captured gold six times since the sport debuted in 2010.

But Vincent, the 25-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., recently edged the veteran at national trials.

While they'll race against each other, the pair will also team up in the C2 500-metre. Their partnership already has two world titles in the event under its belt.

Here's a look at what to expect when canoe and kayak racing gets underway in Tokyo. 

How it works

Olympic canoe sprint events differ by boat style — canoe or kayak — as well as distance. Athletes compete individually, in doubles, and teams of four, but only in kayak. There will be six events for men and six for women.

Depending on the number of entries, athletes will compete in preliminary heats to try to advance through the quarter-finals, semifinals, and finals (A or B, the first being for medals.)

In canoe slalom, athletes compete individually in four events. They'll race the white water rapids course, in either a canoe or kayak, through gates to the finish.

There are two runs in the qualification round, the fastest of which can punch an athlete's ticket to the semifinals. The 10 quickest times from that round move onto the finals.

Canadian contenders

Team Canada is sending 20 canoe and kayak athletes to Tokyo, 16 of which make up the Olympic sprint team.

Vincent Lapointe is a late edition. The paddler was provisionally suspended for a failed drug test — that was later overturned — and missed the 2019 world championships, an Olympic qualifier.

While Canada's single quota spot in the C1 200 went to Vincent, the team has reallocated one of its women's kayak berths so the 29-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que. can compete. 

Canada has dominated the C2 500-metre at worlds with four titles: all of which were claimed by Vincent Lapointe and her different partners.

Connor Fitzpatrick of Dartmouth, N.S., and Roland Varga from Aurora, Ont., are Canada's duo in the men's C2 1000-metre. They had an 11th place finish at worlds. 

Vincent Jourdenais from Trois-Rivières, Que., recently made his world cup debut in 2019 with partner Brian Malfesi of Maple Ridge, B.C., in the K2 1000-metre.

Here's how the K4 500-metre teams break down:

  • The women's includes: Alanna Bray-Lougheed of Oakville, Ont.; Andréanne Langlois of Trois-Rivières, Que.; Madeline Schmidt of Ottawa; and Michelle Russell of Halifax.
  • The men's includes: Mark de Jonge of Halifax; Nick Matveev of Richmond Hill, Ont.; Pierre Luc Poulin of Lac Beauport, Que.; and Simon McTavis of Oakville, Ont.

Lisa Bissonette of Sherbrooke, Que., and Courtney Stott of Pickering, Ont., round out the sprint team.

Haley Daniels, 2015 Pan American Games bronze medallist, will be among the first women to compete in canoes in slalom at the Olympics.

Cameron Smedley is Canada's highest-ranking slalom athlete at No. 51 in the men's C1. While he missed advancing to the semifinals in Rio by one spot, his ninth-place finish at worlds in 2019 secured Canada a place in Tokyo.

Florence Maheu and Michael Tayler will represent Canada in kayak.

International athletes to watch

With Vincent Lapointe absent from 2019 worlds, someone new climbed to the top of the podium — Nevin Harrison, a 19-year-old from the U.S., who captured the country's first canoe sprint world title.

China's Sun Mengya and Xu Shixiao grabbed the C2 500-metre world gold. 

Decorated New Zealand paddler Lisa Carrington seeks a third consecutive gold medal in the K1 200-metre. She's topped the podium at worlds since 2011.

She'll take on Hungarian champion Danuta Kozak in several events, who left Rio with three gold medals. Kozak will want to defend her own Olympic title in the K1 500-metre, though Carrington is the reigning world champion.

They'll also clash in the K4, where Hungary has a strong pattern of gold medal finishes.

On the men's side, Germany's Sebastian Brendel, reigning Olympic champion in the C1 1000-metre and C2 1000-metre, eyes another win.

But despite his prowess, the German didn't make the C1 podium at the most recent world championships. Instead, 2016 Rio silver medallist Isaquias Queiroz of Brazil took top spot.

Serghei Tarnovschi of Moldova returns after being stripped of his C1 1000-metre bronze medal from Rio due to doping. He beat Ilia Shtokalov, who was granted bronze in his place, at a qualifier in May.

Great Britain will look to hold onto its streak in the men's K1 200-metre, after winning the only two Olympic golds.

Meanwhile in slalom, Takuya Haneda competes in his fourth Olympic games in front of a home crowd. He won Olympic bronze in the C1 in Rio — the first medal for Japan in the sport.

The Czech Republic's Jiri Prskavec is the reigning K1 world champion and secured bronze in Rio.

Spain's Maialen Chorraut returns to defend her K1 title in a fourth Olympic appearance. She'll battle Australia's Jessica Fox, who has 15 slalom world medals and two Olympic podium finishes.

The top-ranked Fox will also compete in the C1, where second-ranked and 2017 world champion Mallory Franklin of Great Britain thrives.

Key dates for canoe sprint

Canoe sprint events run from Aug 2 to Aug. 7. Here are the medal dates. 

On Aug. 3:

  • Women's K1 200-metre.
  • Men's C2 1000-metre.
  • Men's K1 1000-metre.
  • Women's K2 500-metre.

On Aug. 5:

  • Men's K1 200-metre.
  • Women's C1 200-metre.
  • Women's K1 500-metre.
  • Men's K2 1000-metre.

On Aug. 7:

  • Women's C2 500-metre.
  • Men's C1 1000-metre.
  • Women's K4 500-metre.
  • Men's K4 500M-metre.

Key dates for canoe slalom

Canoe slalom events run from July 25 to July 30. Here are the medal dates:

  • July 26 men's C1. 
  • July 27 women's K1. 
  • July 29 women's C1. 
  • July 30 men's K1.

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