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Paddlers Smolen And Eichfeld Are Headed to Rio

  There was lots of cheering at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte Saturday as kayaker Michal Smolen of Gastonia and canoeist Casey Eichfeld of Mount Holly earned spots on the U.S. Olympic team going to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August. 

Smolen finished atop the men’s kayak to clinch his spot. Eichfeld will be going to his third Olympic games after Saturday’s win in the men’s single canoe. 

Forty athletes competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for canoe and kayak slalom at the whitewater center Friday and Saturday. Events included men’s and women’s kayak, men’s and women’s canoe and men’s doubles canoe. 

Eichfeld also has a shot at qualifying in doubles canoe, with teammate Devin McEwan, if the U.S. is allocated another spot. They won Saturday’s doubles canoe and will try to wrap it up during a second round of trials next month in Oklahoma City. 

Because of limits on the total number of athletes at the games, each sports gets a limited number of spots. It’s not determined yet if the U.S. will get a third slot at the games, in addition to Smolen’s and Eichfeld’s kayak and canoe berths. 

People who follow the sport closely say this could be the first Olympics since 2004 where the U.S. has a chance to win a medal. 

This weekend’s Olympic trials were the third in Charlotte since the Whitewater Center opened 10 years ago.


See full results of Friday’s and Saturday's runs here

April 9, 2016, TeamUSA.org, “Canoeist Casey Eichfeld Qualifies For Third Olympic Team”

April 9, 2016, TeamUSA.org, “Michal Smolen Wins Olympic Berth In Men’s Kayak, Could Become Team USA’s First Medalist”

Casey Eichfeld's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CaseyEichfeldCanoeSlalom/

Michal Smolen on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Michal-Smolen-Canoe-Slalom-Athlete-161744740513525/