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Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 17:33 UK
Slalom canoeing guide

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You need quick reactions, physical strength, and mental toughness to become a top slalom canoeist.

Competitors must battle their way through 25 gates - some downstream, some upstream - in the fastest time possible.


First of all you need the right kit: waterproof clothing, a spray deck to keep water out of your boat, a buoyancy aid, a helmet, a paddle and your kayak.

To paddle forwards, reach forward - the better your reach, the more power you can generate.

Make sure you have a good grip on the water, then pull back, alternating sides, to drive yourself forward in a straight line.

To turn, you use a sweep stroke. That means performing a wide stroke on one side to turn the other way.

So a wide stroke out to your right will force the boat left, and vice versa.


Once you understand the basics of controlling your kayak, you can attempt to negotiate a course.

The 25 gates in a slalom canoeing course are made up of green gates - which you pass through downstream - and red gates, which are trickier upstream gates.

To make it through a red gate, you need to be careful of your boat's speed as you approach it.

Turn hard behind the gate to haul your kayak around and break the downstream flow of the water.

Pull yourself through and try to get back into the flow as quickly as you can, to save time.

Be careful - if you hit a gate, you earn a two-second penalty. Miss one completely and you will be hit with a 50-second penalty, enough to end your chances of winning.

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