Lisa Carrington will be among the athletes to compete in a different boat this weekend ©Getty Images

Three races will make their debut on the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Sprint World Cup circuit this weekend as the season begins in Montemor-o-Velho in Portugal.

The World Cup officially starts the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle for canoeing, with new events set to feature at the Games included on the ICF competition programme for the first time.

Both the C1 women's 200 metres and C2 500m will be contested, with the events replacing the C1 men's 200m and K2 men's 200m.

The men's K4 1,000m has also become a 500m race, with the governing body making the changes to achieve the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) desire for gender equality.

More than 28 countries are expected to compete at the event, with athletes expected to experiment with different boats and distances as the Olympic cycle gets underway.

"The start of a new Olympic cycle always brings with it excitement and anticipation," said Jose Perurena, ICF President.

"It's exciting for us to kick off the campaign at the beautiful Montemor-o-Velho in Portugal.

"It really is a world-class venue, which will showcase everything that is good about sprint canoe.

"And as the venue for the 2018 ICF Sprint Canoe World Championships, we know organisers are keen to put on a good show this weekend.

"It's never easy to make changes to our Olympic programme, but at the ICF we are very aware that we need to adapt to the times.

"We have a proud reputation in our sport for fighting for fairness and equality, and its a fight that we will continue.

"The bottom line is we want to produce a product in Tokyo in 2020 that will not only thrill our existing stakeholders, but also bring new fans to the sport."

Fernando Pimenta will target success in front of a home crowd ©Getty Images
Fernando Pimenta will target success in front of a home crowd ©Getty Images

Two-time Olympic champion Lisa Carrington is expected to be one of the canoeists testing out a different boat in Portugal.

The New Zealand star has won K1 200m gold at the last two Olympic Games, but is poised to compete in K4 competitions this weekend.

Her participation comes as New Zealand look to achieve success in the K4 500m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Portugal will look to Fernando Pimenta to achieve home success at the World Cup, with the 27-year-old eager to bounce back from missing out on a podium finish at Rio 2016.

The London 2012 K2 1,000m silver medallist has already set his sights on Tokyo 2020 and hopes the country's young athletes continue to develop as they head towards the Games.

"Competing in Portugal in the first World Cup can help you get this good start, I hope it is an excellent sporting event for Portugal," Pimenta said.

"We have a good generation of athletes, some of them are still very young.

"I hope Portuguese canoeing continues to grow and gains more and more space in Portuguese sport."

The World Cup event will begin tomorrow and take place until Sunday (May 21).

Szeged in Hungary will host the second World Cup competition the following week, before Serbia's capital Belgrade welcomes athletes at the start of June for the final event.