Due to World War II, there had been no recent Canoe Sprint World Championships, which, at the time, was the best predictor of Olympic success in the sport. Three competitors, however, had found a measure of accomplishment in the sport prior to the conflict, most notably Josef Holeček of Czechoslovakia, who was well-known in European circles. Canadian Douglas Bennett, meanwhile, was a multiple Canadian national champion who had qualified for the 1940 Summer Olympics, while William Havens of the United States had nearly made the 1936 edition. All were present in 1948, however, where only a final was held. Holeček was the superior competitor and earned a well-deserved gold medal, with the Canadian coming in behind him for silver. Bronze went to Robert Boutigny of France.