Eilidh Gibson competes in C1 slalom

Gender agenda

Women's C1 slalom will be in the 2020 Olympics, opening the door for Eilidh Gibson

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will feature a maiden appearance for the women's C1 class in canoe slalom.

Eilidh Gibson, GB slalom athlete and member of the Young people's sport panel, tells us about the developments in her sport towards gender equality.

How significant is the news about C1 women's class? 

The inclusion of C1W on the Olympic program is very important; it will do so much for the sport of canoe slalom. This message of equality shows every young girl watching at home that canoe slalom could be their sport. As more and more women get involved, these young girls have more role models.

For my own ambitions it means there is now an opportunity for me to fight for a place at the Olympic Games for the first time. However, possibly most importantly, this means that nations will start to support their C1 women.

This is going to lead to a big increase in the number of women who get the opportunity to compete internationally every year, not just at the Olympics.

I am excited to watch these women break down stereotypes and any barriers in their way!

What do the Olympics mean to you?

My first memory of the spectacle that is the Olympic Games is being glued to the TV for two weeks straight when I was eight years old watching Athens 2004. I couldn’t believe that all day every day I could press a magic red button on the remote that would allow me to watch every sport imaginable.

Ever since then my goal has always been to compete at an Olympic Games.

In 2012 I was lucky enough to watch the canoe slalom in the stands and experience what 12,000 people shouting and celebrating looks and sounds like when our British boats won a gold and silver medal.

In 2016, I was very proud and fortunate to travel out to Rio as part of Team GB’s Ambition program to experience what the Olympic Games were – what an incredible insight behind the scenes!

What drives you in your sport?

I love my sport. Canoe slalom is fast-paced, exhilarating and such amazing fun. It is about finding calm in the chaos. Each second there is a fine line between flying around the poles on the perfect line and a complete disaster. A race run can go from a massive high to a devastating low in the space of seconds.

For me, what gets me out of bed is the constant desire to improve myself. I am lucky enough to have such incredible support for my sporting endeavours, which allows me to improve myself every day in every area; technically, physically and mentally.

This constant desire to improve myself is probably why I love learning and university so much! To get to wake up every day and learn something new in both the athlete and student side of my life is very much a privilege and not something I take for granted.

In 2012, Nicola Adams became the first woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics in boxing. In 2020 C1 women will follow suit with its own Olympic debut (see details below).

My dream is to be the one woman selected from Great Britain to race in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and win the gold medal.

In this video you can hear more from one of my coaches, Craig Morris (British Canoeing Technical Coach and lead for C1 women) and what he thinks of the developments towards equality in the sport.

The road to gender equality 

  • At all previous Olympic Games, the sport of canoe slalom has included three men’s categories allowing four male athletes in total and one women’s category. Men could compete in the kayak singles (K1), canoe singles (C1) and canoe doubles (C2) while women could only compete in kayak singles (K1).
  • Women’s C1 made its World Championship debut in 2009 with 20 women competing from 12 nations; it was made an official event the following year (2010).
  • Since that original pioneering group of women there has been a steady increase in the number of girls competing in C1; however, there has always been fewer competitors than the other classes. This is partly because it is a new and developing class but also because it was not an Olympic discipline.
  • In June 2017 the International Olympic committee announced women’s C1 would be added to the Olympic program in 2020 in place of C2 men, which makes canoe slalom gender equal.
  • At the first World Cup this year following the announcement, there were 52 competitors from 21 nations – very exciting times!

Find out more

Follow the work of Eilidh and the other members of the Young people's sport panel on social media using #sportpanel. 

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