By Brandon Penny | Sept. 20, 2015, 6:18 p.m. (ET)
Michal Smolen competes in the men's K1 at Lee Valley White Water Centre on Sept. 20, 2015 in London.


Kayaker Michal Smolen proved his breakout season in 2014 was far from a fluke when he won the bronze medal at the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships on Sunday afternoon at the 2012 Olympic venue of Lee Valley White Water Centre in London.

It marked Team USA’s first men’s kayak world championship medal in 16 years.

Smolen finished the men’s K1 final in a time of 92.01 seconds, just over three seconds behind gold medalist Jiri Prskavec of Czech Republic’s 88.99. Poland’s Mateusz Polaczyk took silver in 89.43.

The world championship medal is the latest in a string of accomplishments for 22-year-old Smolen. He struck gold at the Under-23 World Championships in April 2014. Two months later, he won bronze at the world cup in Prague.

While he struggled to reach the top 10 on this year’s world cup circuit, Smolen returned to the top of the podium at the Pan American Games in July.

Sunday’s result marked Smolen’s first senior world championship medal in his third appearance at the event. He previously finished 39th in 2013 and 13th in 2014.

He began kayaking at age 10, following in the footsteps of his father. Rafal Smolen was a competitor for the Polish national team and head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team.

After finishing second at the 2012 Olympic Trials, Michal Smolen will look to make his first Olympic team in Rio when he competes at the Olympic Trials in April and May.

Also in London, two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld finished fourth in men’s C1, missing the podium by 0.21 seconds. It marked his first world championships final appearance in four attempts.

Team USA has secured canoe slalom Olympic quota spots in men’s K1 and C1, and failed to earn a berth in women’s K1.