Para-canoe will be one of two sports joining the programme at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

In 2009, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) launched the Para-Canoe Development Programme in a bid to expand the sport and increase the levels of competition available.

The two main types of para-canoe boats are kayaks (K), propelled by a double-blade paddle, and outrigger canoes called va'as (V) where the boat has a second ‘pontoon’ called an ama as a support float. The boat is propelled by a single blade paddle. 

The inaugural Para-Canoe World Championships were held in conjunction with the Canoe Sprint World Championships in 2010 in Poznan, Poland. This competition also saw the introduction of the first Paralympic events and classification system, with 28 national federations competing from five continents. Jonathon Broome won Great Britain's first Para-Canoe World Championship gold medal in the men's K1 200m A category.

The 2011 World Championships in Szeged, Hungary saw nearly 70 competitors take to the water. Canada and Brazil proved themselves to be leading nations in the sport. Great Britain secured third place on the medal table with a gold from Patrick Mahoney in the men's V1 200m LTA and Dan Hopwood racing up a classification in the men's V1 200m TA to take bronze.

The GB Para-Canoe Programme was formed in 2011 and proved its potential at the 2012 Para-Canoe World Championships in Poznan, where GB topped the medal table with five gold medals and one bronze. Former Paralympic swimmer Jeanette Chippington competed above her classification to take three gold medals. Nick Heald won gold in the men's V1 TA and Dan Hopwood, now racing within his own classification, took gold in the men's K1 A. To complete the medal haul, Pat Mahoney took bronze in the men's V1 LTA.

Great Britain has continued to have great success in para-canoe over the last few years at European and World level, regularly finishing as the top para-canoe nation.

In early 2015 the International Paralympic Committee confirmed that only Kayak events would be included on the programme for Rio and a revised classification system was introduced.

At the 2015 World Championships, only entering Paralympic Kayak events, Great Britain won 2 gold and 2 silver medals and qualified four out of the six possible Paralympic quota places for Rio 2016.

At the 2016 World Championships Great Britain finished top nation once again, winning a total of six medals (two gold, two silver and two bronze), five of which were in Paralympic events and also qualified the remaining two Paralympic quota places. 

Great Britain and Australia are the only nations to qualify all six para-canoe quota places for Rio 2016.

Amongst the names to watch are Jeanette Chippington (KL1) and Emma Wiggs (KL2) who have each won four world titles in their respective Paralympic events. 

  • First year at a Paralympic Games:
  • Rio de Janeiro, 2016
  • Brief history:
  • Para-canoe will become part of the Paralympic programme for the first time at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Eligible impairment groups:
  • Physical impairments.
  • Rio 2016 venue:
  • Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (Copacabana Zone)


Competitors sprint over 200m in a kayak and much like its Olympic counterpart, para-canoeing is a race in lanes to make it to the finish line first. 
There are currently six different events (three for men and three for women) and this has the potential to increase to include the Va’a (outrigger canoe) events as the sport develops further.


The Paralympic para-canoe classification of impairments was restructured in February 2015, as a result of a two and one half year study by the ICF. In Paralympic kayak competition (K1), there are three classes for both men and women based on an athlete's functional ability to paddle and apply force to the foot board or seat in order to propel the canoe.

KL1: Athletes with no or very limited trunk function and no leg function and typically need a special seat with high backrest in the kayak.

KL2: Athletes with partial trunk and leg function, able to sit upright in the kayak but might need a special backrest, limited leg movement during paddling.

KL3: Athletes with trunk function and partial leg function, able to sit with trunk in forward flexed position in the kayak and able to use at least one leg/prosthesis.


The BPA would like to see lots of people engaging with the news and information that we post on our website. If you would like to participate in the conversation, however, please ensure you comply with the House Rules. The BPA reserves the right to remove posts which do not comply with these Rules or which are considered irrelevant to the post.

Back to top