Michal Smolen Wins Olympic Berth In Men’s Kayak, Could Become Team USA’s First Medalist

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 2:27 AM

Smolen needed only a top-three finish at the first leg of the U. S. Olympic Team Trials for Canoe/Kayak Slalom, held this weekend at the National Whitewater Middle in Charlotte, N Carolina.

Michal Smolen Wins Olympic Berth In Men’s Kayak, Could Become Team USA’s First Medalist

After the disappointment of a close miss in two thousand-twelfth due to circumstances beyond control, Michal Smolen seized his fate and qualified for the Rio two thousand sixteen Olympic Team in whitewater slalom men’s single kayak Saturday evening.

Smolen needed only a top-three finish at the first leg of the U. S. Olympic Team Trials for Canoe/Kayak Slalom, held this weekend at the National Whitewater Middle in Charlotte, N Carolina. He won the event and, combined with the bronze medal he won at the two thousand fifteen world championships, has compiled sufficient points to qualify for Rio prior to the second leg of the Olympic Trials, to be held May 6-7 in Oklahoma City.

The decisiveness of his earning a ride to Rio was in sharp contrast to the uncertainty that plagued his candidacy for the London two thousand twelve Olympic Games. Having emigrated from Poland to the United States when he was ten years old, he held a permanent green card but lacked U. S. citizenship when he won the Olympic Team Trials. The only hope to safe his citizenship in time to compete in London was, quite literally, an act of Congress. Congress didn't deliver his citizenship until seven months after the Olympic flame was extinguished in London.

Looking back at the experience, Smolen frames it with a maturity that belies his twenty-two years.

“It was a long shot, honestly,” he said at the Team UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Media Summit latest month. “Now when I see at it, it really wasn’t the right time for me to go to the Games.”

That time is now, and Smolen will be accompanied by the only coach he’s ever known in the sport: his father, Rafal, who was an alternate in whitewater slalom for the Polish team at the one thousand nine hundred ninety-two and one thousand nine hundred ninety-six Olympic Games.

Rafal brought his family to the United States after accepting a coaching position with the elite Nantahala Racing Club in two-thousandth. In two thousand-eleventh he became UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Canoe/Kayak’s slalom national development and coaching manager, and in that role will be the coach of the Olympic team in Rio.

The promise the younger Smolen flashed at seventeenth, when he defeated three Olympians to win the two thousand eleven national championship, has blossomed into results in the quadrennium leading to Rio. Benchmark results comprise the Under-23 world championship in two thousand-fourteenth, as well as a world cup bronze medal the same year, and gold at the Toronto two thousand fifteen Pan American Games accompanied by the world championship bronze medal that boosted him in his quest to qualify for the ride to Brazil. That bronze was the first worlds medal by an American in men’s kayak since Scott Shipley won the third of his three worlds silver medals in 1999.

Of the five Olympic medals won by the United States in whitewater slalom, none have been in men’s kayak. With is father by his side to guide him, Smolen hopes to modify that fact in Rio in August.



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