Ready for Rio: Canoe, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Sept. 16, 2014, 11 a.m. (ET)
Megan Blunk
Megan Blunk is a hopeful for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Canoe Team, which will be the first Paralympic team assembled for the sport. 

With 722 days left before the 2016 Paralympic Games kick off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, make sure to study up on one of the sports making its Paralympics debut. By 2016, we bet you'll wish you Ca-knew these 16 facts:

1. Welcome!
Para-canoe is making its first Paralympic appearance at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. After nearly two years of diligent campaigning, para-canoe was accepted in 2010 to be one of the new sports added to the 2016 Paralympic Games.

2. What’s the difference?
When it comes to para-canoeing and able-bodied canoeing, competition events and rules are almost the same. Both para-canoeing and able-bodied canoeing competitions are set along 200 meter straight courses, and the fastest athlete wins.

3. The start from the Southeast 
Originating from Southeast Asia, outriggers have been a key part to traveling by boat and fishing for quite some time. The outriggers play a large role in boat speed.

4. Classifications
Para-canoe is differentiated into three classifications, which include LTA, TA and A. Athletes classified as LTA can use their legs, truck and arms for rowing. TA classified athletes use their trunk and arms, and A classified athletes only use their arms.

5. Participation
Currently, there are more than 30 countries that participate in para-canoe.

6. Kayaks
A kayak is one of the two types of boats used for para-canoe. This long, narrow boat is meant to go fast thanks to the hard material on the outside. Kayakers use double bladed paddles.

7. Outrigger canoes
Like kayaks, canoes are long and narrow but they can have outrigger attached on one or both sides of the canoe in order to provide stability. The outriggers extend on the canoe’s side in order to manage rough water as well as keep a fast speed.

8. Finding balance
Para-canoe is a sport that requires a great deal of balance as well as a lot of strength. Balance plays a big role in maintaining speed and successfully passing through rough patches of water.

9. Another name
Para-canoe is often called "paddling" by the athletes who participate in the sport. 

10. European power 
At the 2014 International Canoe Federation Paracanoe World Championships, Great Britain won the medal count with nine medals (six golds, three silvers). Russia was second with seven medals (one silver, six bronzes) and Ukrain was third with six medals (one gold, two silvers and three bronzes).

11. Medal drought
The United States did not win a medal at the 2014 International Canoe Federation Paracanoe World Championships in Moscow after winning four medals in 2013. At that championships, Megan Blunk won two silver medals while Anya Pierce and Anne Yoshida each claimed bronze medals.

12. Leading lady
Blunk of Lakebay, Washington, a two-time silver medalist at worlds, finished fourth in the K1 (TA) women’s 200-meter event at 2014 championships, Aug. 6-10, in Moscow, making her one to watch for 2016. Three summers ago, Blunk, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash at 18 years old, tried competitive paddling at the recommendation of a friend, not knowing the sport would be introduced to the Paralympic Games in 2016. After making it to the 2012 Games in wheelchair basketball, Blunk looks to once again represent the U.S., but this time in para-canoe. 

13. Qualification slots
Each country is allowed to have one qualifying male or female athlete for each medal event. Therefore, with three medal events for men and three for women, each country can qualify a maximum of six athletes to compete in para-canoe in Rio.

14. Worldly athletes
To be eligible for one of the qualification slots available for the Paralympic Games, athletes must have competed at the 2015 and/or the 2016 ICF Paracanoe World Championships. The 2015 ICF Paracanoe World Championships are in August in Milan, Italy.

15. Medal events in Rio
For the sport’s debut in Rio, there will be a total of six medal events, and only a total of 30 men and women will be able to compete. Events include men’s and women’s kayak single LTA, men’s and women’s kayak single A and men’s and women’s Va’a single TA.

16. Where to watch in 2016
Para-canoe will be held a Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Copacabana. This existing venue will be renovated for the 2016 Games and will seat approximately 14,000 spectators. Renovations for the venue are scheduled to be completed by June 2015.

To learn more about the sport of para-canoe, visit USACanoeKayak.org. USA Canoe and Kayak is the National Governing Body for the sports of canoe and kayak, Olympic and Paralympic-eligible, in the United States. The International Canoe Federation oversees the sport internationally.