Category Archives: Canoe and kayak

Periodisation in kayaking training: A summary of four papers focusing on the Spanish Men’s National Kayaking Squad from 2006 to 2008

It’s fairly rare to get papers looking at paddlers and it’s also rare to get papers looking at very highly trained international athletes, so when you get both together it’s worth having a look. I came across four papers by Jesús García-Pallarés (plus various other collaborators) which all look at the training of the Spanish National Team from 2006 to 2008 (the ’06/’07 and ’07/’08 seasons). The focus varies between them but I thought they were worth looking at together. The first paper looks at the whole two year period and the others look at particular sections within those two years. All with the same group of paddlers.

I wasn’t expecting this to be such a long post when I started but to tie all four papers together it ended up being fairly long. Since one of the papers considers the whole two year period and the other three look at sections within those two years I’ve started off with that paper and then brought in the other papers to expand on the sections they each cover.

The paddlers in the studies had an average of 11 years training experience at an average age of 26 and paddled 4,415 km per year. All of the paddlers studied had been World Championships finalists. Two of them apparently won gold in 2008; since the only Spanish K2 to win was Saúl Craviotto and Carlos Pérez they must have been in the study! They won the 500 m K2, and Craviotto also won silver K1 200 m in 2012 and gold K2 200 m in 2016 (with Cristian Toro). His coach, Miguel García-Fernández, appears as an author on one of them. Not every day you get to study athletes like that.

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TUEs, pushing the boundaries of WADA

Asthma inhalerOne of the many issues and discussion points in doping is the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) by athletes. It’s been more of a talking point after the Fancy Bears’ leaks though so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the topic and discuss its impact on canoeing / kayaking.

What are TUEs?

If an athlete needs to take a medicine for an illness, but the medicine is prohibited by the World Anti Doping Agency, WADA, (the agency that sets and monitors anti doping policy around the world) then they can apply to get permission to use the medicine. Generally the application is done through their National Governing Body. A doctor has to say they are genuinely in need of the medication and sign off on it, and they must fulfil all four of the below criteria [1]:

  • The athlete would experience significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance or method
  • The therapeutic use of the substance would not produce significant enhancement of performance
  • There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or method
  • The requirement to use that substance or method is not due to the prior use of the substance or method without a TUE which was prohibited at the time of use.

If you need emergency treatment then you can receive it and then apply for a retroactive TUE after the treatment (to make sure athletes aren’t going to start turning down necessary treatments or anything crazy). This is all in place to try and make sure that the TUEs are used to keep athletes healthy but not provide any advantage to those receiving them. However, the world of sport has shown again and again that people will try and push boundaries and take advantages where they can find them.

Can TUEs be abused?

If you’re allowed to apply to take drugs that are normally banned because they can be performance enhancing then there’s an obvious follow on that maybe you can take them for precisely those performance benefits… Continue reading

GB’s last chance to qualify more Olympic places

The European Olympic second round canoe sprint qualifiers kick off this Wednesday in Duisburg. This is a chance for counties who failed to qualify places at last years world championships to claim the few remaining spots that are distributed between continents. The rules mean that athletes that have previously qualified places can’t qualify more boats, even in different events. Second round qualification is notoriously hard, with only two spaces for K1 events and one for K2 and canoe. However, the upshot is that people who do win a coveted place tend to do very well at the games, for instance the Russian K2 who won gold at London qualified through the second round process. GB have put forward a strong team with several realistic chances to qualify Olympic places.

Angela Hannah is doubling up to contest both the 200m K1 and the 500m K2 alongside Lani Belcher. The pair initially though they had claimed their spots after their 9th place finish in the final of the World Championships on reallocated quota places. However, following a lengthy court case involving several countries, the court awarded the quota places to women’s K4 rather than the K2. Having been so close to qualifying last year, and with good early season form, beating the course record at Nottingham, Hannah and Belcher are in a strong position. Angela is also competing in the K1 200m. She was a fair way off qualifying at the World championships last year, finishing 19th after winning the C final. However, when she executes her start perfectly she has the potential to finish far higher up the rankings, with a top two finish possible.

2012 Olympic champion Ed McKeever has yet to secure his chance to defend his title. McKeever was lacking form at last years world champs, finishing 17th. However, he won a bronze medal earlier that year at the Baku European games, with many of the guys he beat qualifying for the Olympics. This could well be the closest fought event, with only fractions of a second splitting the top guys. McKeever has got a great track record of performing when it matters, consistently making the podium at international events so last years blip may well be a one off. It would be a mistake to write the reigning Olympic champion off. Continue reading

Race prep: the basics

You’ve trained for months for a race, putting in hours of hard work and you want to deliver your best on the day; but what’s the optimal way to do it? Everyone has their own opinions and approaches but here are our thoughts. Backed up with copious amounts of trial and error and a sprinkling of science!

The type of race you’re doing will make a difference to your preparation but the general principles are the same, and hopefully you will get some help from coaches and other experienced paddlers. When thinking about the build up to a race, you can break it down into several phases, possibly starting a year or more before the race, but here we are going to look at the last week.

The week before

In the run up to an important race you want a period of easier training so that you don’t go into the race tired. This is known as a taper. Exactly how much you need to taper depends on the race, if you’re just doing a local club marathon race then you shouldn’t be resting for a whole week, one rest day just before is probably enough. This is because it’s more important to get a full amount of training in so you go faster months and years in the future. However, for more important races it is important to go into the race without being tired, and ideally having your form peak for the race.

Rest is important! You can’t make yourself go faster in the week before a race but you can definitely make yourself go slower. It almost certainly worth putting in a complete rest day 1-5 days before regatta. The exact sessions in a taper period can vary quite a bit, but hopefully you have a coach or some experienced training partners helping you set a program but the main point is to be reducing your training volume, so that the sessions are easier to recover from. We would strongly suggest reducing the volume but not the intensity of sessions as this allows you to keep your speed and keep you feeling sharp. For instance, if you normally have 8 * 4 minutes on a Monday you could reduce that to 4 * 4 minutes with 4 * 1 minutes at the end. Adding some extra speed work and starts might be a good idea in the taper period. This week is also a good time to get out in any crew boats you are racing. Continue reading

Widespread changes proposed for the 2020 Olympic games canoe/kayak program

Mens 2012 Olympic Semi Start

Men’s 2012 1000m semifinal start, photo

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) have approved a race program with some striking changes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. These changes still need to be ratified by the International Olympic Association (IOC) but it is hard to see why they would reject them. However, it is easy to see why the paddlesport community is divided over these changes. This is a very controversial subject so we will try and break down what the changes are, who they affect and whether the sport needed to take this action.

Why change?
The primary driving force behind the changes are to make the games gender equal. For some reason, canoeing is one of the few remaining sports that doesn’t have the same number of medals and places for men and women, a crazy situation that had to change. Adding to that, in the last Olympic cycle we were perilously close to being kicked out of the games. This was due, in a large part, to kayaking having an unequal amount of medal events split between men and women (11 to 5 across Sprint and Slalom). This obviously reflects poorly on the sport. Therefore the ICF had to make some pretty serious changes in an attempt to keep our Olympic status. (Whether Olympic status is worth having is another argument explored well here – although we would argue that it is!)

What are the changes?
There are now six men’s and six women’s events in the sprint program with eleven athlete spaces for each. Slalom features an even two and two split. Continue reading

The state of anti-doping and drugs testing in canoeing and kayaking


Assorted pills

People seem to be happy to talk about drugs in athletics and cycling these days, people like Gatlin get derided and left out in the cold and people refuse to forgive them for their failed drug tests in the past. Anyone winning the tour de France is given some healthy suspicion. The competitors and governing bodies of these sports point to their drugs testing programs, which without a doubt are making big improvements, alongside WADA. Improvements include the biological passport, increased awareness and media pressure and new more sophisticated tests, which all make it harder to cheat. But what about canoeing?  What are we doing? Canoeing is a smaller sport with less of a media spotlight, despite its presence in the Olympics, but little is ever mentioned about testing and drugs within the sport.

Clearly we all want a clean and fair sport for everyone to enjoy, but in order to get that everyone needs to be engaged. There isn’t a huge amount of testing within canoe / kayak, especially within certain disciplines, and a lot of the time there isn’t much discussion about the potential that there could be athletes who aren’t clean. It’s taboo to suggest that the sport isn’t perfect, but doing so isn’t to cast aspersions on individuals, it is merely to point out that more can always be done to keep drugs out.

Canoeing and kayaking statistics

We decided to have a look at the 2014 testing figures to get an idea of what is going on in the sport. According to the WADA figures, canoe / kayak carried out 4,485 tests in 2014. The vast majority of the test were urine tests, and only 0.5% came back with an Adverse Analytical Finding (which it should be noted isn’t necessarily a failed test).

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Thoughts on the Nelo Cinco design: or why is the nose upside down?

It’s been around for a few months now but the Nelo Cinco is still getting comments about its strange looks so we thought we should have a dig in to the ideas behind the changes. Obviously we can’t speak for Nelo and their designers but it is interesting to look at some general boat design and learn about the thinking behind the design of the Cinco. The main change to the hull is the upside-down nose / inverted bow but in addition there are changes to the rudder, rudder hatch, the stern and some cosmetic alterations.

Here’s what Nelo had to say on the launch of the new shape:

The inverted bow (a.k.a. reverse bow)
It certainly makes the Cinco stand out but what’s the reasoning behind the move? Inverted bows mean that the furthest forward point of the boat is under water, thus increasing the length of the water line. A longer water line means better top speed.

Also, there is reduced buoyancy at the front of the boat, note that the Cinco is pretty thin up front, which is meant to stop the front of the boat being picked by waves so easily. This should mean that the boat experiences less pitch variation and runs flatter through waves, stopping it moving up and down when you paddle through waves and possibly reducing the natural bouncing that comes from paddling. The obvious problem is if the waves are too big and there isn’t enough buoyancy, the boat gets buried beneath the waves.

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