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Robin Bell competing in Beijing.
Robin Bell competing in Beijing.

The AIS is transitioning out of directly delivering sport programs to empower sports to manage their entire high performance pathway, a priority action of Australia's Winning Edge.

For details on the high performance plans of individual sports please contact the relevant national sports organisation.

With a wall of whitewater confronting them as they hurtle down a torrential current, negotiating gates upstream and rocks downstream, slalom canoe competitors need split-second timing, mental and physical agility, strength and balance.

The unique program offered by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) provided scholarship holders with expert training, fitness testing, world-leading sports science and sports medicine services, and even access to specialised competition canoes and kayaks.

About the program

The AIS canoe slalom program was introduced in January 2001 to capitalise on the legacy of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In 2005 the program became a National Centre of Excellence, which maximises the collective expertise and resources of the Australian Institute of Sport, Australian Canoeing and the New South Wales Institute of Sport in a unique partnership to achieve medal winning performances and sustainable international success.

The National Centre of Excellence program is based at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, the venue that hosted the slalom events at the 2000 Olympic Games, with administrative offices at the Sydney International Regatta Centre.

The program is coach-driven and athlete-centred, and targets and attracts high performance and potential high performance athletes. It aims to fast track the development of these athletes by providing world-class coaching, facilities, infrastructure and support services in an intensive daily training and camp-based environment at Penrith Whitewater Stadium. It also provides high performance international training and competition opportunities.

About the sport

Speed, strength and mental toughness are important attributes of a high performance slalom canoeist. The challenge is to make their way down a whitewater river course of 300–400m, precisely navigating through a series of 18–25 ‘gates’ put in place to test their skills. However, these are not the only obstacles: rocks, water size and speed also play a crucial part in the race.

The ultimate race is against the clock. The time taken to paddle from start to finish gives the competitors their total time, with deductions of two seconds for touching a gate and 50 seconds for missing a gate. There are so many variables that an athlete must negotiate while racing down the river, that it makes for a highly competitive and exciting sport.

Competitions and Olympic history

Slalom canoe has an international World Cup series each year, in which there are three World Cups in different countries from May to August. There is also a world championship, in each non-Olympic year from July to October, during which slalom canoeists also compete for team titles.

The sport first featured at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, but was omitted from the Games from 1976 to 1988, finally returning to the Olympic program in 1992. During the Olympics and world championships, slalom racers compete in four events: men in the Canadian singles (C1) and doubles (C2) and kayak singles (K1), and women in the kayak singles (K1).

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