Caroline Queen (Darnestown, Md.) qualified for her first Olympic Games Saturday with a 35th place finish in Women’s Kayak at the Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10. The Davidson College student edged out teammate Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.), who finished 37th, for the Olympic slot.
Click HERE for full recaps from the Cardiff World Cup.
Queen and Nee arrived in Cardiff tied in Olympic selection points, but Queen earn the tiebreaker because she initially earned the Olympic slot for Team USA at the 2011 World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia. Nee would have had to finish in the Top 20 and ahead of Queen this weekend to earn the Olympic spot for herself.
Queen joins slalom kayaker Scott Parsons (Bethesda, Md.), slalom canoeist Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.), and sprint kayakers Carrie Johnson (San Diego, Calif.) and Tim Hornsby (Atlanta, Ga.) as members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Team. The final U.S. boat will be named Sunday - Men’s Double Canoe.
On qualifying for her first Olympics:
“It’s kind of hard to believe at this point. The selection process is so long. This morning I woke up and couldn’t believe it was here. And now that it’s done, I can’t believe that that’s all she wrote. But it is. It’s pretty incredible and I’m really glad that I’m with my family to share the moment and my teammates and coaches and staff and everybody.”
On her two runs Saturday:
“The first one had one mistake on it. I just wasn’t being very patient. But the second run, I just was in the start and like, ‘just buckle down, just do the run, don’t try to do anything fancy, just do the course.’ And that’s what I did. I don’t think it was good enough to actually qualify [for the semifinal] at the [World Cup] race, but it was good enough to secure the spot for the U.S. [Olympic] team and that’s what I came for.”
On the Olympic selection process:
“The first qualifying race was the Worlds [Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia]. It was a bit complicated for me because it was during my first semester of my sophomore year and I needed to take some time off from school. I just edged in and secured the country spot for the U.S. at that race. And then the [Olympic] Team Trials in Charlotte, I wasn’t quite consistent enough to secure first place there. So that put a little bit of stress on me, because Ashley Nee and I, the top two women in the U.S., were tied. I had the tie breaker because I qualified the slot initially, back in Bratislava. As it turns out, I have fallen back onto that tiebreaker point. So it all goes back to the Worlds, really.”
On her competition with fellow Darnestown-native Ashley Nee:
“It’s kind of unfortunate because neither of us qualified [for the semifinal]. And I had really hoped that, for the health of the program, that both of us would have qualified and it would have been very neck-and-neck in the Top 20. But that’s not really how it played out today. Fortunately, I had the good momentum going from the Worlds to push through and secure the Olympic spot.”
On her plans between now and London:
“I go home on Monday afternoon and will be training there. I believe I’ll head back to Europe sometime at the end of the month to train in both Pau [France] and London, in preparation of the Games."
On her support group in Wales:
“I was very excited. My parents came over, it’s the first time they’ve ever seen me race internationally. So it was really great to have them here to share the moment.”
Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO: “Before I worked at USA Canoe/Kayak, I had the privilege of coaching Caroline and Ashley. The depth of these young women is beyond words and, as intense as competition can be among lifelong friends, they handle it as well as anyone I've ever seen. I know Caroline will embrace the best of the Olympic movement and will drive to the best her paddling of her young career in London.”
Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) qualified for his second straight Olympic Games Saturday with a 6th place finish in Men’s Single Canoe at the Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10. The Potomac Whitewater Racing Center member needed to reach the Top 20 and rank three places higher than fellow 2008 Olympian Benn Fraker (Peachtree City, Ga.), who finished 11th in the semifinal run.
Eichfeld, 22, ranked 7th after the semifinal to reach the final. He finished his final run in 106.22, with one two-second penalty for touching a gate and 5.76 seconds behind the gold medalist.
On how it feels to qualify for London 2012:
“I’m a talker and I’m speechless. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to feel. I’m just sort of floating right now.”
On his plans after this weekend:
“I’m going to go home. I’m going to go celebrate with my family and my friends and get ready for the next month.”
On how this Olympic qualification compares to making the 2008 Team:
“It’s actually pretty similar. In 2008, Ricky [Powell] and I were the underdogs and we managed to pull it off in the last race. And here, it was the last race and I was the underdog once again and I just managed to pull it together, hold myself together, and put down some good runs.”
On his mindset heading into this weekend:
“Coming into the race, I knew that I needed to be a certain number of boats ahead of Benn [Fraker]. But I tried to keep that at the back of my mind. I didn’t want that at the forefront, distracting me, because that’s the kind of thing that gets in an athlete’s head and takes them down. I just tried to focus on the fact that I couldn’t control anything but what I do. That’s where I kept my mindset and just going out there and doing the best I could.”
On Friday’s wind delay:
“We had a similar situation at Bratislava [Slovakia] for the  World Championships, so I wasn’t a stranger to wind cancellations. I just treated it like it was another day, it was just another day off before the race. I tried to keep my mind occupied.”
On Saturday’s 6th place finish:
“It’s probably one of my personal bests at this point. To be honest, Benn and I both thought that it was going to be decided in semifinals. It didn’t even occur to me that we would end up taking it into finals. Initially, the results read out that both of us were going to go into finals and that was a bit scary for me, because it just meant that I was going to have to get myself back in that mindset all over again. But then the results changed and I ended up in the finals by myself, which I think, from a psychological standpoint, helped me a lot. I knew that I needed to go out there, that I didn’t have to do anything spectacular. I just needed to put myself in a decent position and that’s what I did.”
On the Olympic selection process:
“Oh my gosh. The whole process leading up to an Olympic berth is so stressful. You try to do your best not to let it get to you too much or to think about it constantly, because then it gets in your head. So I was doing my damndest to make sure that I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I knew what I needed to do, so that was all I needed to think about. I just needed to make sure that I was focusing on what I needed to do. The only thing I could control was me. Every time we would have a selection race, I would have a decent result. This whole year, I’ve been getting better and better.”
On earning the Olympic spot in the single canoe:
“It’s a little bit different. Actually, I think I almost prefer having a C-2 partner there because it’s somebody that knows the exact same feeling that I feel and someone that I can celebrate with immediately. I remember when Ricky and I made the Olympic boat in Augsburg [Germany] in ’08. When we both realized it, we just looked at each other and hugged each other and started crying. And here, I just had to sort of wait, the scoreboard at the bottom of the course wasn’t working, so I had no idea what was going on. People would kind of relay messages to me. As a C-1, it definitely feels amazing. I feel like I did it all on my own power. Either way, either boat, I feel accomplished. And actually, I still get a chance to try and secure it in the C-2 as well. So I’m going to go out and do my damndest to do that as well. I want to be the first two-boat Olympian for the United States.”
Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO: “We're proud of the quality of racing we've seen from our athletes today. Scott and Casey earned every bit for their Olympic spots overcoming tough conditions, changing schedules and outstanding performances from their teammates. For Casey, coming over to the C-1 category after racing C-2 in Beijing was a huge challenge. He never doubted he could make the jump and really hit his form last year on the World Cup circuit. Casey's work ethic, forward thinking and intense confidence will serve him and our program well over the next seven weeks. We could not ask for better Olympians than Scott and Casey to anchor this team heading into London.
William Irving, USA Canoe/Kayak National Teams Director: “Casey Eichfeld was able to stay focused since the Trials to do what he needed to do to break into his first World Cup Final and secure the C-1 Men’s slot for the Olympic Games. Casey is a competitor and rose to the challenge today to secure the Olympic spot. Initially, we thought that the race for the Olympic spot was going to be in the Finals with Benn originally placed 10th but a late change to the Russian score bumped Benn to 11th and out of the Finals. Benn had a unfortunate touch late in the race that was costly enough to bump him out of the Finals. This was a very competitive field of the top Olympic Boats we will be seeing in London and for Casey to have his best ever result bodes well for him leading into London.”
Scott Parsons (Bethesda, Md.) qualified for his third straight Olympic Games Saturday with an 11th place finish in Men’s Kayak at the Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10. The Sylvania, Ohio-native turned in a penalty-free time of 97.62, +3.7 seconds behind the semifinal’s first place finisher. He finished 6-hundredths of a second out of the Top 10 and a berth in the Finals.
In order to be displaced as the lone men’s slalom kayak in London, either Jim Wade (Boise, Idaho) or Brett Heyl (Norwich, Vt.) would have had to make the Top 20 and finished above Parsons. Wade placed 18th and Heyl finished 29th.
On how it feels to qualify for London 2012:
“It’s a relief. Honestly, it’s hard to describe. The process has been physically and mentally exhausting. So at the moment, I’m not sure that the excitement is really going to kick in until a little later when I’m a little more rested and really have time to digest the reality of the situation. But I’m very, very excited. I’m really happy.”
On his mindset throughout the Olympic selection process:
“I didn’t really think much about the point system and the standings within the Men’s Kayaks very much at all. For the way I race, it was just better to prepare the way I normally do and just worry about my own result and try and have a good run. If the result’s there, then that’s fantastic, that’s the goal. [I try] just to focus on myself and see what I can do and see if it works out and, thankfully, this time it did.”
On Saturday’s Olympic-clinching semifinal run:
“With the conditions here, with the wind and the technically difficult moves at the bottom of the course, I’m very happy with how the run went. I had some mistakes at the bottom that I’d like another crack at to try and correct. It wasn’t the best run I’ve ever done but I’m very happy with the run given the circumstances.”
On his form of late:
“I wouldn’t say, ‘on top of my game.’ I think I’m close. I’m looking forward to improving as much as I can in the time between now and London. I’m very close to the top of my game. I think we were all paddling very well and all the Men’s Kayaks prepared really well and are incredibly skilled. That showed in the final results, we’re all really close. I’m happy with where I am and I look forward to hopefully improving a little more before London.”
On if his emotions are different from the moment he qualified for the last two Olympics:
“Well 2004 was interesting, just being the first time. That was a unique experience. Then in 2008, I medaled in the World Cup that was used to decide the [Olympic] team, so there was a lot of excitement to go along with making the team. On top of that, I medaled at the race, so that was extremely exciting. They are all very different but all equally great and I’m really proud of all three. They’re just all different and I think that’s one thing that makes our sport so cool. It’s very rare that you have the same course with the same emotion twice. I kind of enjoy that uniqueness with each result. I’m extremely happy with this one.”
On his plans between now and London:
“To be honest, I hadn’t thought too much about it. I was pretty focused on this race. You know the old cliché, not putting the cart before the horse. If it didn’t work out here, there was no point in looking in the future. I’m scheduled to fly home on Monday, back to Washington D.C. I’m looking forward to getting home for a little bit and catching my breath and figuring out the game plan from there. And training hard and preparing for London.”
On if London will be his final competition:
“I’m not sure. It could go either way. At this point, I’m really enjoying myself and having a lot of fun. I’m trying to enjoy each moment as it happens. Eventually, it’s going to come to an end and I think I’ll know when it’s time to stop. As of right now, I haven’t really thought that far in the future and I’m just enjoying the moment and looking forward to London.”
On his goals for London:
“I think everybody dreams of an Olympic medal, so that’s a pretty big goal, but that’s the goal. [I’m] preparing and doing whatever I can to try and make an Olympic medal a reality.”
Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO: “We're proud of the quality of racing we've seen from our athletes today. Scott and Casey earned every bit for their Olympic spots overcoming tough conditions, changing schedules and outstanding performances from their teammates. With Scott, you can see all the improvement of the past four years since Beijing coming together today. Experience, leadership, perspective and process - the kind of attributes you associate with a three time Olympian. We could not ask for better Olympians than Scott and Casey to anchor this team heading into London.”
William Irving, USA Canoe/Kayak National Teams Director: “Scott Parsons once again did what he needed to do in order to secure his third Olympic Games slot in the Men’s K-1 but it did not come without a fight from his two U.S. competitors. Scott is a true champion and came off the water a little disappointed that he had not put down a better run that would of landed him into the Finals. Scott struggled to get his boat moving through the bottom half of the course and lost some time that would have easily placed him into the Finals, but it was still enough for him to capture the top U.S. placing and 11th overall. Jim Wade had a single touch that would have given him a great run and a chance to make it into the Finals as well but it just wasn’t his day. Jim has worked extremely hard since not making the team in 2011 to move himself into contention to challenge Scott for the Olympic spot and we expect for him to be one of the top paddlers to contend for top international results in the future for the U.S.”
USA Canoe/Kayak is a non-profit membership organization based in Oklahoma City, OK, promoting canoe and kayak racing in the United States. A member of the United States Olympic Committee, USA Canoe/Kayak is the national governing body for the Olympic sports of Flatwater Sprint and Whitewater Slalom and the official U.S. federation of the International Canoe Federation. Other paddling sports sanctioned by USACanoe/Kayak include Marathon, Freestyle, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddleboard, Canoe Polo, Canoe Sailing, Outrigger, and Dragon Boat. For more information about USA Canoe/Kayak, please visit us on the web at www.usack.org, on Twitter at @usacanoekayak and Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/USACanoeKayak.