Rio 2016 venue: Whitewater Stadium (Deodoro Zone)
Competition dates:
  • Slalom: Aug. 7-11
  • Sprint: Aug. 15-20
Medal events: 15 (4 in slalom, 12 in sprint)
Olympic introduction: 
  • Slalom: 1936 (Berlin, Germany)
  • Sprint: 1976 (Munich, Germany)

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be the start of a new chapter for the U.S. canoe/kayak program as athletes look to end long Olympic-medal droughts in both canoe slalom and canoe sprint. 

Scheduled to be held at the Whitewater Stadium (Deodoro Zone), canoe and kayak will be contested at the Rio Olympic Games in two different disciplines: slalom, which takes place in whitewater, and sprint, held on flatwater. Sprint races are contested along straight routes marked by buoys, and the boats are built for speed – generally long and thin in length. Whitewater slalom, inspired by slalom skiing, uses smaller and lighter boats capable of resisting strong rapids while allowing competitors to move in an agile manner. Competitors pass through gates along a predefined course.

After strong, medal-winning performances at the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships and the 2015 Pan American Games, the U.S. is poised to send a full, four-boat canoe slalom team to Rio. The selection process for the U.S. Olympic Team began in September 2015 at the world championships and was finalized following two U.S. Olympic Team Trials events.

Hopes for a canoe slalom U.S. podium appearance are high with 2015 World Championship bronze medalist Michal Smolen and three-time Olympic canoeist Casey Eichfeld in prime position to make a run for the podium. The U.S. has not won a medal in canoe slalom since Rebecca Giddens won the silver medal in women’s kayak at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, Maggie Hogan was the lone U.S. canoe sprint team athlete to qualify a quota slot for Rio. Representing the United States for the first time in Olympic competition, Hogan will take to the water in the women’s single kayak 500-meter event and will try to break a 24-year U.S. medal drought in canoe sprint at the Olympic Games.

Athletes To Watch
Casey Eichfeld 
After winning two gold medals at the 2015 Pan American Games and finishing fourth at the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, Eichfeld has put the world on notice in men’s canoe. Making his third Olympic appearance in Rio, he is poised to be a top medal contender for Team USA.

Maggie Hogan
After winning her first individual canoe sprint world championship medal in 2015, Hogan qualified for her first Olympic team by finishing second at the 2016 Pan American Championships in the women’s K1 500-meter event. With a strong history of results in the longer events, she hopes to shine in her first Olympic spotlight.

Michal Smolen 
Already considered one of the world’s best men’s kayakers, Smolen solidified his status as an Olympic-medal favorite when he took home a 2015 world championship bronze medal. A veteran of the U.S. National Slalom Team, he began his career at age 13. Despite winning Trials in 2012, the Krakow, Poland, native was unable to attend the London Games, because he was not yet a U.S. citizen. He has since gained his U.S. citizenship and won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials to officially punch his ticket to Rio. His speed and style on the water have helped make him one of the most dynamic and exciting athletes to watch compete in canoe slalom.


  • The U.S. canoe slalom team looks to break a 12-year Olympic medal drought dating back to 2004 when Rebecca Giddens won silver in women’s kayak.
  • After finishing second at the 2016 Pan American Championships to qualify for her first U.S. Olympic Team, Maggie Hogan looks to win the first U.S. canoe sprint Olympic medal since the legendary Greg Barton won bronze in the men’s sprint kayak 100-meter in 1992.

  • Slalom kayak racing has become a family business for the Smolen family. While Michal Smolen is set to make his Olympic debut, his father, Rafal Smolen, will serve as coach of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
  • With an eye on an Olympic medal in canoe slalom, three-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld became the first American to qualify for an Olympic Games in two categories – men’s canoe and men’s double canoe along with Devin McEwan, son of 1972 Olympic bronze medal-winning canoeist Jamie McEwan.