2012 Summer Olympic Games Preview - Canoeing

Four years after capturing eight medals in canoe and kayak events, Germany enters the London Olympics with a strong roster.

The Germans led the medal table in these events at the Beijing games, and figure to be strong again. They led all nations at last year's sprint world championships with 11 medals, including six gold. Russia also captured 11 medals, while Hungary had 10.

Max Hoff highlights the German team. He was fifth in the 1,000-meter single kayak at the 2008 Olympics, but has since won a handful of world titles in solo and four-person 1,000-meter kayak events. Additionally, four-time Olympic gold medalist Katrin Wagner-Augustin will try to earn another medal. She will compete in the women's four-person kayak event.

One athlete Germany won't have at these games is Nicole Reinhardt, who won gold with Wagner-Augustin in the women's four-person kayak in Beijing. The eight-time world champion Reinhardt will miss the games with an injury.

Slovakia should be strong in slalom events. It captured three of the four gold medals at the 2008 games, and dominated the world championships in 2011, earning eight of the 27 overall medals. Single canoer Michal Martikan, a four- time Olympic medalist with multiple world titles, leads the Slovak team.

The United States had no medals at the Beijing games, while Canada took two. Thomas Hall earned a bronze medal in the 1,000-meter single canoe, and Adam van Koeverden won silver in the 500-meter single kayak.

Van Koeverden, a three-time Olympic medalist, is back and racing in the 1,000- meter single kayak. He won that event at last year's world championships.

Additionally for Canada, Hugues Fournel and Ryan Cochrane will be competing in the double kayak. They captured a pair of bronze medals in world cup events this year.

The United States will send a team of seven to London, including sprint kayakers Carrie Johnson and Tim Hornsby.

Johnson, 28, competed at the 2004 and '08 Olympic games, and is back for her final appearance. She won the 500-meter race at last year's Pan American Games, and was ninth in the 200 at a recent world cup event.

The rest of the American team consists of slalom competitors. Eric Hurd and Jeff Larimer qualified in the men's double canoe, and will both make their Olympic debut. Casey Eichfeld returns after finishing 11th in the double canoe at the 2008 Olympics. This time, however, the 22-year-old will compete in the single canoe.

Caroline Queen and Scott Parsons are both solo slalom kayakers. Parsons, 33, placed sixth at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

There are 16 medal events in canoeing and kayaking, split between sprint and slalom competitions.

The 12 sprint events are head-to-head races conducted on still water, and differ in terms of distance, number of people in the boat, and type of craft.

Sprint races are either 200, 500 or 1,000 meters long -- a change from four years ago, when the 200-meter race was not part of the program. Men contest eight sprint events, while women have four races.

Crews can be one, two or four people, and only two types of watercraft are used -- kayaks and canoes. Kayak competitors sit down and use a paddle with a blade at both ends, while canoers kneel down and used a single-bladed paddle.

Slalom races differ from sprint events in that they consist of timed runs down a white water course. The course can have up to 25 gates, and time penalties are added for missing or touching a gate.

There are only four slalom events -- the single canoe, double canoe and single kayak for men; and single kayak for women.

Slalom events begin Sunday, July 29, with the men's kayak and single canoe. All four of those medals are awarded by August 2.