Canoe Sprint was added the Olympic program as a full medal sport in 1936 at the Olympic Games in Berlin. The best finish for a U.S. Team member was by Ernie Riedel, who won a bronze in the K-1 10,000m.
At the 1948 Olympic Games in London, Steve Lysak and Steve Macknowski captured the gold medal in the C-2 10,000m and the silver in the C-2 1,000m. Frank Havens won the silver medal, in the C-1 10,000m. Four years later, Havens would go on to win the gold in the C-1 10,000m in Helsinki.
At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the women's team captured its first Olympic medal and the first U.S. medal in 12 years. The team of Francine Fox and Gloriane Perrier won a silver medal in the K2W 500m, while Marcia Jones earned the bronze medal in the K1W 500m. For the next 20 years, however, the U.S. team struggled in Olympic competition.
During that time, the Olympic program saw change. In 1972, Whitewater slalom was added to the program for the first time, enjoying remarkable spectator response. Jamie McEwan brought home the first U.S. Whitewater Olympic medal with a bronze in C-1 competition.
The Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom events were first introduced and contested at the Munich Games of 1972. Then for 20 years the slalom version of canoe/kayak was conspicuously missing from the Olympics. That would all change at the 1992 Barcelona Games as Slalom Canoe /Kayak was reintroduced to the Olympics. With the advent of engineered courses and man made rivers, it’s safe to say that this heart stopping adventure packed Olympic Sport is here to stay.
The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles marked the start of a great run for USA Canoe/Kayak. Greg Barton won the bronze medal in the K-1 1,000m, while other U.S. athletes placed in the top five in four other categories. A the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Barton stormed to a hairs-breadth victory in the K-1 1,000m, then returned less than 90 minutes later to team with Norman Bellingham for gold in the K-2 1,000m, marking the first time an athlete has won two 1,000m kayaking golds in the same Olympic Games.
Barcelona saw the return of Whitewater Slalom to the competition program in 1992, and with it came American success. Joe Jacobi and Scott Stausbaugh in C-2 claimed America’s first Olympic gold medal in Slalom; Dana Chladek earned the bronze medal in K-1W. Barton won his fourth and final Olympic medal at the 1992 Olympics taking the bronze in the K-1 1,000m. Chladek would go on to win the silver in the same category at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The most recent Olympic medal won by a USA Canoe/Kayak athlete was Rebecca Giddens’ silver at the Slalom competition at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.