(Eichfeld paddling C-1 at the Oceania Championships. Credit: SportScene.tv)
USA Canoe/Kayak is proud to nominate the following athletes to the 2014 U.S. Slalom World Championship Team:
The above athletes will compete at the ICF Slalom World Championships in McHenry, Md., Sept. 16-21, 2014.
Who: The best U.S. slalom athletes
What: 2014 USA Canoe/Kayak Slalom Team Trials
When: March 28-30
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Why is it important: This is the qualifier for the 2014 Slalom World Championships, which will be held on U.S. soil for the first time in 25 years.
The U.S. will field a veteran squad at the World Championships, including a combined 8 Olympic appearances. Fabien Lefevre, a two-time Olympic medalist for France, will be joined on Team USA by Olympians Casey Eichfeld (2012, 2008), Rick Powell (2008), Benn Fraker (2008), Jeff Larimer (2012) and Eric Hurd (2012).
Lefevre finished first in both men’s K-1 and C-1 and will look to improve upon his 4th place finish at the 2013 World Championships. Michal Smolen and Zach Lokken will compete in both the Senior and Under-23 World Championships in Penrith, Australia.
“It was quite windy and that made runs complicated to paddle for the third race,” Lefevre said. “My two first places yesterday in K-1 and C-1 for the last race allowed me to be the winner of the US National Trials. I’m very happy and proud to represent the US for another season! … The US Team looks pretty similar compared with last season and that certainly creates a good atmosphere in the group. Technically speaking, I am satisfied with my races and get new leads to work on for the next few months.”
In women’s K-1, Dana Mann and Ashley Nee battled all weekend with Mann recording the fastest time on two of three days. Colleen Hickey ran away with top honors among women’s canoes. Coming off their Gold Medal performance at the Oceania Championships, the C-2 pairing of Eichfeld and McEwan continued their momentum at Trials separating themselves from the rest of the field. Rarely competing since the 2012 season, Fraker, Hurd, and Larimer returned to the water to qualify for the World Championships in men’s C-2.
"Slalom Trials accomplished it's first goal - to select the best team possible to represent the United States and ultimately achieve great results at the 2014 Slalom World Championships in Western MD,” said USA Canoe/Kayak CEO Joe Jacobi. “Our top athletes performed extremely well and are making incredible strides on their racing. We are grateful to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for hosting an excellent event."
Todd Copley, Deep Creek 2014 Executive Director: “On behalf of Deep Creek 2014 and the Host Organizing Committee, we send a hearty congratulations to all the athletes on their selection for Team USA and their upcoming participation in this year’s ICF Canoe Slalom World Championship in Deep Creek Lake, MD. It’s an exciting time for the sport and all the U.S. athletes as the Worlds return to the United States after 25 years. We look forward to hosting the event and welcoming the U.S. athletes to Garrett County. We hope the ‘home’ course will add an advantage and wish everyone the best of luck in the season.”
Casey Eichfeld, via Facebook: “The sporadic weather has left me a little soggy, wind burnt, sun burnt, but also happy! Three days of racing two classes takes a longtime and a lot of energy as some of my fellow athletes know all too well. I am happy to have secured positions on the Men's C-1 and Men's C-2 team. Devin and I had a lot of solid racing, and now I am excited for more. Well done everyone and congratulations to all my 2014 teammates.”
Eric Hurd and Jeff Larimer, via Facebook: “[We are] very excited that 2014 U.S. Slalom Team Trials has concluded. This is our third year on the team but the first that we are not first boat - but hey, we retired for over a year after the  Olympics so we are very happy and proud to be second boat on this 2014 Team. Congrats to first boat Casey Eichfield and Devin McEwan who deserved the victory and raced like champions! And we are so proud to share this team with third boat Benn Fraker and Scott McClesky - old Atlanta boys just like us. Great racing by all.”
Team USA hopes to crack the podium at the 2014 Slalom World Championships after recording two Top 5 finishes in 2013. The Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, Md. will host the World Championships on Sept. 16-21.
But before that can happen, the best U.S. athletes will vie for the chance to represent their country on home turf in September. Western Maryland also hosted the World Championships in 1989, the last time the event was in America.
Two newcomers in 2013, France-born Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, Md.) and Slovakia-born Dana Mann (Washington, D.C.) will look to build upon their strong finish last season, finishing 4th and 5th at the 2013 World Championships, respectively.
“Representing the USA at this coming World Championships is a great opportunity that normally happens only once in a lifetime,” Mann said. “And I might have a second chance to race at my new ‘home championships’ in Maryland after the World Championships in Bratislava and I am very excited for that.”
Lefevre will be challenged by, among others, Michal Smolen (Gastonia, N.C.) in both canoe and kayak, and two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) in canoe. Eichfeld and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.) hope to continue their reign atop the U.S. men’s C-2 standings, although they will have to fend off London 2012 Olympians Jeff Larimer (Marietta, Ga.) and Eric Hurd (Woodstock, Ga.), who are jumping in a boat together after taking much of the 2013 season off.
“I am very excited for Trials to be underway,” Eichfeld said. “I'm looking forward to a good weekend of racing. Worlds coming to the United States is an honor, and has been a magnet for new and old boats to appear. The outcome of Team Trials this year will be very interesting. I wish everyone luck and happy racing through these next few days.”
Among Mann’s challengers will be Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.), who turned in a career best 12th place finish at the 2013 World Cup Final. Women’s canoeists Micki Reeves (Grand Junction, Colo.) and Colleen Hickey (Okawville, Ill.) continue their friendly rivalry after Reeves finished first at last weekend’s U.S. Open.
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation. It governs the Olympic disciplines of Flatwater Sprint, Whitewater Slalom, the Paralympic discipline of Paracanoe and sanctions Freestyle, Marathon, Outrigger, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak Polo, Dragon Boat and Canoe Sailing in the United States. 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.