Optimism High For Olympic Medals As Canoe/Kayak Slalom Trials Start

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 9:39 PM

Silvan Poberaj, the coach for the U. S. canoe/kayak slalom team, believes the athletes headed into the first stage of the U. S. Olympic Team Trials Friday and Saturday in Charlotte, N Carolina, form a powerful grouping with the potential for excellence.

Optimism High For Olympic Medals As Canoe/Kayak Slalom Trials Start

It’s been a while since the United States won an Olympic medal in canoe/kayak whitewater slalom, but there’s reason for optimism in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Silvan Poberaj, the coach for the U. S. canoe/kayak slalom team, believes the athletes headed into the first stage of the U. S. Olympic Team Trials Friday and Saturday in Charlotte, N Carolina, form a powerful grouping with the potential for excellence.


If things crack right at this first stage, and the second stage May 6-7 in OK City, Oklahoma, the American paddlers may be primed to choose up their first Olympic medal since Rebecca Giddenstook silver in the women’s K1 (single kayak) at Athens in two thousand-fourth. Team UNITED STATES OF AMERICA didn't win a medal at either Beijing in two thousand-eighth or London in two thousand twelve.

“In the K1 (men’s) class we've Michal Smolen who's in recent years better results than we've had for a long time,” said Poberaj, the team’s head coach in London and a coach with the U. S. program since one thousand nine hundred ninety-four. “So comparing to London and Beijing, I think if everything goes right we should be in a better situation.”

Smolen, twenty-two, ranks as Team USA’s best medal hope, and he’s coming off a terrific two thousand fifteen in which he won a bronze medal at the world championships, a Pan American Games gold medal and a U. S. championship. In two thousand-fourteenth he was an Under-23 world winner and took a bronze in a world cup event in the Czech Republic. Plus, by finishing third at the most recent world championships, Smolen locked up a spot for Team UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in the Games in his class.

But Smolen won’t be the only paddler to look this weekend at the U. S. National Whitewater Middle in Charlotte.

Casey Eichfeldin men’s single canoe was fourth at the world championships in two thousand-fifteenth, cementing a men’s C1 berth at the Games. At twenty-sixth, he’s experienced, having competed at the two thousand eight Games (eleventh in C2, doubles canoe) and the 2012 Games (fourteenth in C1).

“He competed already in London and now, four years later, he's in better shape,” Poberaj said. “latest year, latest two years, he'd some really excellent international results. In these two classes (C1 and K1) I believe we're in better position than four years ago or eight years ago.”

Going into the two stages of trials, the men’s C1 and K1 are the only two classes in which athletes will be competing for a guaranteed quota spot in the Rio Games, but Team UNITED STATES OF AMERICA can still get positions for the women’s K1 and men’s C2 classes. Paddlers in those classes will compete at this weekend’s trials hoping to earn the top U. S. position, pending proof of U. S. quota spots later this spring.


Contest will be held in five classes, men’s C1 and C2, men’s K1, women’s K1 and women’s C1. Women’s C1 is a non-Olympic event, however, it's been proposed for the two thousand twenty Olympic Games. Nations may qualify only one athlete per class, maximum, for the Games.

Paddlers in each class will create two runs on the artificial whitewater course on both Friday and Saturday, with their best score on Friday combined with their best on Saturday to define their standing. This will be the same format used at the second stage of the trials in Oklahoma City.

Paddlers will running the course, which should get about ninety to one hundred seconds to complete for the fastest class (K1), while negotiating the eighteen to twenty-five gates. They'll be penalized two seconds for touching a gate and lose fifty seconds for lost a gate.

Smolen has the easiest route to the Games in the trials based on his world championships result. He needs only to finish third or better at either stage of the trials to win a spot on the team. Since two thousand eleven, Smolen hasn't finished exterior the top three at senior national trials.

Dana Mann, Ashley Nee and Anna-Maria Ifarraguerriare the top three in this class. Mann, who'd some powerful results in two thousand-thirteenth (including fifth at the world championships), was injured in two thousand-fourteenth and took time off to have a baby in two thousand-fifteenth, but is presently coming on strong. Nee won bronze at last year’s Pan Am Games.

Eichfeld also is in excellent position to qualify, needing to finish second or better at either trials. Zach Lokken, Smolen’s C2 partner who was third in the C1 national team trials in two thousand-fifteenth, ranks as the following strongest candidate in the class.

Eichfeld and Devin McEwanwon the Pan Am Games C2 in two thousand-fifteenth. Smolen and Lokken also are in the running.



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