Slalom is arguably our most successful canoe-sport discipline with Eoin Rheinisch finishing fourth just outside the medals in Beijing. It has been an Olympic event since 1992 when Ian Wiley was competing. His best performance was fifth in Atlanta 1996.
Competitors race alone against the clock through rapids on a course marked out by poles (called slalom gates). The challenge is to pass through approximately twenty gates suspended above the water, avoiding a touch with any part of the boat, paddle, or body. The competitor must pass through the gates in the correct order and direction. Green and white striped poles must be passed in a downstream direction and red poles in an upstream direction.
The aim is to be Fast and Clean, that is, negotiate the course as quickly as possible without incurring any penalty points, Penalty seconds are added on to the overall time to produce a total score. Each competitor has two timed runs and the best time is counted towards the paddlers placing. The course designer’s job is to hang the gates in a sequence which forces the competitor to work out best possible route choices.
Where can I do it?
There are a number of slalom training facilities at clubs on the river Liffey, including Wild Water Kayak Club, Salmon Leap Canoe Club, at Templemills Weir, and several other sites around the country.
Type of boat
A slalom boat is specialized for their role, being extremely light and manoeuvrable. A plastic version, call the Fox, allows novices to take the challenge. The National Slalom Committee organise events for beginners and advanced paddlers. The domestic slalom racing season goes from March-May and the September and October. The International season peaks in the Summer with the World Cup Series and World Championships being held every year.