Extreme Slalom in the Olympics?

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The International Canoe Federation is one step closer to adding extreme canoe slalom to the Olympic program.

The ICF Board voted to include men’s and women’s extreme slalom on its proposal for the Paris 2024 canoe program as it strives to continue to innovate and combat a reduction of Olympic quota places.

Extreme slalom is a relatively new discipline, but its thrilling head-to-head format has attracted new fans and strong television ratings since its introduction to the ICF world cups and world championship programs.

Its addition to the Olympic schedule would not require any extra athlete quotas, with many of the slalom competitors likely to also enter the extreme competition.

As the IOC indicated, no new medal events will be added to the Paris 2024 program. But the ICF board voted to put a proposal to transfer two medals from the sprint program, and add the two medals to extreme slalom.

“This decision allows the ICF to keep its core strengths, and at the same time bring innovation and diversity to the 2024 Olympic program,” said ICF President Jose Perurena, adding the timing seems right. “Extreme slalom can be part of our sport’s future, and we know it will be a great fit in the Olympic Games — it’s fast, popular with athletes and spectators, and comes across very well on television. It sits nicely inside the IOC brief to introduce new, adrenaline-charged events that appeal to younger audiences.”

Extreme slalom also fits the IOC’s requirement for sports to strive for more value out of their venues. It will be contested on the canoe and kayak slalom course, and add extra days to the slalom Olympic schedule.

Medal Allotments

The ICF board is now examining further options regarding the sprint Olympic program. If the new proposal is accepted by the IOC, it will give sprint ten medals and slalom six medals at the 2024 Olympics.

The ICF board also announced two host cities for world championships next year. The 2021 ICF junior and U23 canoe slalom world championships will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from July 6-11, and the 2021 ICF junior and U23 wildwater canoeing championships will be held in Solkan, also in Slovenia, from August 25-28.

olympics extreme slalom
A mass start makes it easy to monitor the racers’ progress.

“We have to consider the best interests of more than a dozen paddling sports,” says Perurena. “We have already been told we will lose 12 quotas for Paris 2024. It is up to us to decide where those 12 quotas will come from, and we need to make those decisions with one eye on our future within the Olympic program.”

The Olympics provides a large slice of the funding that allows ICF to support canoeing around the world. The Olympics are also evolving. The IOC, Perurena adds, is determined to introduce new, innovative sports as it strives to attract younger audiences. It also wants to get more value from Olympic venues, without adding extra athlete quotas to the Olympic program.

“Extreme slalom fits perfectly into the IOC’s wish list for future Games,” he says, adding every canoe slalom athlete would be eligible to compete in the extreme competition. “We have a sport that is new, innovative, looks great on TV, and would extend the use of the Olympic slalom venue by at least two days.”

The ICF has also been experimenting with mixed K2 and C2 sprint races, with 5,000-meter races featuring portages, as well as with a new Super Cup format.

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