An exciting addition to the Paralympic programme at Rio 2016, the world's leading canoeists will face new challenges at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of Paralympic canoe in one minute. Whether you are familiar with Paralympic canoe or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.

One Minute, One Sport | Para Canoe

"One Minute, One Sport" will show you the rules and highlights of Para Canoe in one minute


Paralympic canoe is exactly like canoeing for able-bodied athletes, enabling those with physical impairments to enjoy the sport and compete at the highest level. Athletes with impairments to the lower body or trunk compete in an individual 200-metre sprint on a straight-line course.

Races are contested by two types of boat, kayak and va'a (which means ‘small boat’ in the Polynesian language). The kayak is propelled by a double-blade paddle, while the va'a is an outrigger canoe which has a second pontoon as a support float and is used with a single-blade paddle.

Find out about the details of canoe classification

Event Programme

  • KL1 200m (Men/Women)
  • KL2 200m (Men/Women)
  • KL3 200m (Men/Women)
  • VL2 200m (Men/Women)
  • VL3 200m (Men)

Essence of the Sport

Powering to the finish line

Para canoeists use upper body strength to drive their boat through the water, combined with an efficient, dynamic and stable paddling technique:

These boats are ideally shaped for forward motion at 5.2m long, a minimum of 50cm wide and with a minimum weight of 12kg. The paddles are approximately two metres long and have a water-scooping blade on both sides. Athletes use one paddle and advance by placing the blade in the water alternately on each side of the boat.

New to the Paralympic Games, this boat is longer than a kayak at up to 7.3m and has a minimum weight of 13kg, its length giving it more forward force. An outrigger (float) is used on either the left or right side of the boat to maintain balance. Canoes fitted with an outrigger have long been deployed by Pacific Islanders, but their use in sport is new. The paddles used with va'as have a blade on one side only and propulsion is achieved by placing the paddle on one side of the boat. Particular skill is needed to keep moving straight.

Athletes can modify the seat of the canoe and the inside of the cockpit to suit their individual impairment. A range of devices are used to maintain posture and ensure the athlete is stable and secure within the boat, such as belts to fix the body into the seat.

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

A young sport with a big future

The first para canoe event took place as part of the 2009 Canoe Sprint World Championships, while the first World Championships for para canoe racing alone were held a year later. By 2016, canoe was part of the Paralympic Games programme.

Great Britain, Brazil and Australia have proved so far to be the leading countries, but the level of competition is increasing worldwide and some athletes are switching from other sports, further raising the standard.

At Rio 2016, Great Britain's athletes took gold in all three women's events. Jeanette Chippington, KL1 class gold medallist, was originally a swimmer and appeared at five successive Paralympic Games from Seoul 1988 to Athens 2004, winning 12 medals. After retiring from the pool she discovered canoeing and returned to competition in 2011, becoming a Paralympic champion five years later.

After losing his legs in a mine blast while serving in the Australian army and after just two years in the sport, Curtis McGrath of Australia took a KL2 gold medal at the 2015 World Championships then went to Rio and repeated the achievement.

The addition of the va'a category will add even further interest in the sport at Tokyo 2020.