Canoe/Kayak

Five 2012 U.S. Olympians Named in Wales

June 07, 2012, 12:50 a.m. (ET)

parsons

SUNDAY:

Add two more athletes and one final boat to the nominees for 2012 U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Team. Eric Hurd (Woodstock, Ga.) and Jeff Larimer (Marietta, Ga.) reached the Men’s Double Canoe (C-2) Final Sunday, where they finished 9th.

Click HERE for complete results from Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10.

Hurd and Larimer finished tops among U.S. C-2 boats with a time of 115.40, +7.11 seconds behind the gold medalists. Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.) placed 13th. Scott McCleskey (Sylva, N.C.) and Dave Hepp (Charlotte, N.C.) finished 18th in the semifinal after a Team USA-leading 11th place ranking through qualifying heats.

In order to be displaced as the lone U.S. men’s C-2 in London, one of the other U.S. boats would have had to make the Top 20 and finished above Hurd and Larimer. It will be the first Olympic Games for both paddlers.

Hurd and Larimer join slalom C-1 Eichfeld, slalom kayakers Caroline Queen (Darnestown, Md.) and Scott Parsons (Bethesda, Md.), and sprint kayakers Carrie Johnson (San Diego, Calif.) and Tim Hornsby (Atlanta, Ga.) on the 2012 Olympic Team.


Click HERE for full Q&As with Queen, Parsons and Eichfeld.


Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO: "To win the Olympic C-2 spot by making the Final in today's race is a great exclamation point on the selection process for Jeff and Eric. The journey to becoming an Olympian has been long for both athletes but the Slalom community in the U.S. is thrilled to see Jeff and Eric achieve this goal. Not only will they represent the U.S. well in London, their experience and teamwork will add an exciting dynamic to our team environment this summer."


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SATURDAY AFTERNOON:

Caroline Queen (Darnestown, Md.) joined Scott Parsons (Bethesda, Md.) and Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) in qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games Saturday at the Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10. But for Queen, this will be her first trip to the Olympics.

Queen, a student at Davidson College, edged out teammate Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.) for the Olympic slot. Queen finished 35th with a penalty-free second run time of 120.96, +16.23 back from the leader after the heats. Nee placed 37th, finishing 1.06 seconds behind Queen. Emily Jackson (Rock Island, Tenn). placed 43rd.

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, Parsons and Eichfeld join 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. All three C-2 boats advanced to the Sunday's semifinal. Scott McCleskey (Sylva, N.C.) and Dave Hepp (Charlotte, N.C.) got off to the best start with an 11th place finish through qualifying heats. Eric Hurd (Woodstock, Ga.) and Jeff Larimer (Marietta, Ga.) placed 14th. Casey Eichfeld and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.) finished 18th.

Queen 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.”

Queen 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.”

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.”


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SATURDAY MORNING:

Two athletes punched their ticket to London Saturday morning at the Slalom World Cup No. 1 in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10. Both of them will be making return trips to the Olympic Games.

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.

Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.) qualified for his second straight Olympic Games, this time in a different event than in 2008. He placed 6th in Men’s Single Canoe (C-1) to clinch the individual berth after representing the U.S. in Double Canoe (C-2) at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He’ll try to also qualify for the C-2 spot beginning later Saturday.

The Nantahala Racing Club 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.

Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.), 18, placed 28th to round out the U.S. Men’s C-1 contingent. In Women’s C-1, a non-Olympic event, the 22-year-old Micki Reeves (Grand Junction, Colo.) finished 8th in the final round. Both athletes will look to build on this experience.

Parsons and Eichfeld join 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 two U.S. boats will be named this weekend - Women’s Kayak and Men’s Double Canoe.

Parsons 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.”

Parsons 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.”

Eichfeld 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.”

Eichfeld 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.”

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.”

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.


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WHAT: 2012 ICF Slalom World Cup No. 1

WHEN: June 8-10, 2012

WHERE: Cardiff, Wales

WHY: final Olympic selection event for Team USA

WHO: Coaches Silvan Poberaj and Rafal Smolen

Men’s Kayaks: Scott Parsons (Bethesda, Md.), Jim Wade (Boise, Idaho), Brett Heyl (Norwich, Vt.)

Women’s Kayaks: Caroline Queen (Darnestown, Md.), Ashley Nee (Darnestown, Md.), Emily Jackson (Rock Island, Tenn.)

Men’s Single Canoes: Benn Fraker (Peachtree City, Ga.), Casey Eichfeld (Drums, Pa.), Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.)

Men’s Double Canoes: Eric Hurd (Woodstock, Ga.) & Jeff Larimer (Marietta, Ga.), Eichfeld & Devin McEwan (Salisbury, Conn.), Scott McCleskey (Sylva, N.C.) & Dave Hepp (Charlotte, N.C.)

Women’s Canoes: Micki Reeves (Grand Junction, Colo.)

HOW: The athletes with the most Olympic qualification points heading into this weekend are Scott Parsons, Benn Fraker, and the C-2 boat of Eric Hurd and Jeff Larimer. Caroline Queen and Ashley Nee are tied in points, but the tiebreaker goes to Queen for initially qualifying the Olympic slot for Team USA at the 2011 World Championships. In order for Nee or any other U.S. boats not leading in Olympic points to earn a ticket to London, they must finish in the Top 20 and above the current U.S. points leader by the placing needed to surpass the current leader. If that does not happen, Queen and the points leaders will be named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, no matter where they finish this weekend.

The remaining five of the seven athletes that will represent the USA in canoe/kayak at the London 2012 Olympic Games will be nominated this weekend. Sprint kayakers Carrie Johnson and Tim Hornsby have already been named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Now it’s the slalom team’s turn to choose their athletes.

It’s possible that the 2012 Olympians for Men’s Canoe and Men’s Kayak will be determined as early as Friday, when both events will have their heats and semifinals. Women’s Canoe also races Friday, but is not yet an Olympic discipline. Women’s Kayak and Men’s Double Canoe begin Saturday and it’s possible that the 2012 Olympians will be named prior to Sunday’s finals.

In Men’s Canoe, 2008 Olympian Fraker leads in Olympic selection points after winning the previous two selection races - the 2012 Pan American Championships in Brazil in February and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Charlotte in April. Beijing Olympian Eichfeld finished 2nd to Fraker in both races. Lokken, 18, placed third at the Olympic Trials to remain in the race for the London 2012 berth.

In Men’s Kayak, two-time Olympian Parsons leads in Olympic selection points after finishing 15th in the 2011 World Championships and then winning the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Wade and 2004 Olympian Heyl placed 2nd and 3rd at the Olympic Trials.

In Women’s Kayak, Queen earned the Olympic slot for Team USA with a 37th place finish at the 2011 World Championships. She then finished second at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials behind Nee, a fellow Darnestown-native, to create a tie in Olympic selection points. Jackson, 22, broke away from her roots in freestyle kayaking to place third at the Olympic Trials.

In Men’s Double Canoe, the Georgia tandem of Hurd and Larimer leads in Olympic selection points after winning the previous two selection races - the 2012 Pan American Championships and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Eichfeld and McEwan finished 2nd in both races. McCleskey, 33, and Hepp, 38, came out of retirement to place third at the Olympic Trials and take one more shot at qualifying for the Olympics.

QUOTES:

Brett Heyl, Men’s Kayak: “It has been four years since the emotional end of my 2008 Olympic selections. I kept training and racing the past four years for this one opportunity at redemption. It should be fun to watch the American slalom team rise to the occasion this weekend, and take its place among the world's best. There is nothing American about mediocrity. As Americans we were all raised not only to strive to be the best, but to succeed. We are ready.”

Scott Parsons, Men’s Kayak: “I am really looking forward to this weekend's World Cup race in Cardiff.  I have prepared well and am excited to have the opportunity to compete for a spot on the 2012 Olympic Team.”

Ashley Nee, Women’s Kayak: “After coming off of the win at Olympic Team Trials, I couldn't be more excited to get back in the start gate and apply the lessons I learned in Charlotte against the top women in the world. My new boat is perfect for this course and I feel like I have the whole state of Maryland supporting me. The Cardiff course if very technical while being very physical. This will play to the strengths and the weaknesses for every competitor, but I am excited to see the Americans really challenge the rest of the international field. I have been training in Cardiff for over a month and I feel like I have the home course advantage now. I’m expecting my first Top 20 finish at a World Cup. I'm more focused than ever, ready to get in the start gate and go as fast as I can.”

Caroline Queen, Women’s Kayak: “I'm excited to begin the final stretch of the Olympic Selection process. The Cardiff course is a challenging venue that will surely pick a strong Olympic team.”

Emily Jackson, Women’s Kayak: “This is one of my first international [slalom] races, so I am really excited to see the sport at this level. With it being the Olympic qualifier, my only hope is to paddle at the best of my ability and then see where that leaves me. Going in I know I did everything I could with the short amount of time I had, so I can leave this event satisfied in the sense of knowing I gave it my all.”

Casey Eichfeld, Men’s Canoe: “The race ahead of us has been long thought about by every athlete on the team. Everyone is hoping to bring their best paddling to the water, and clinch that Olympic spot for themselves. We will see a few smiles and a lot of tears, but this is what we race for. We are here to chase our dreams and goals, no matter the outcome.”

William Irving, USA Canoe/Kayak National Teams Director: “Since our team trials in April, the team has been spending as much time as possible preparing for this weekend’s World Cup race and Olympic selection event. The athletes are in top physical shape and we expect to have some strong performances this weekend as we ramp up to the Olympic Games. The athletes are anxious to get the Olympic selection process over and get focused on putting in their best performance in London.”

Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak CEO: "While selecting an Olympic Team brings a lot of drama, our top contenders have focused on an outstanding process that is constantly improving our opportunities to win medals this summer in London. We're looking forward to an exciting step forward for the Slalom program this weekend in Cardiff."

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.

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