Ten canoe and kayak athletes, including seven paracanoeists, have claimed positions on the USA Canoe/Kayak sprint national team as trials concluded Saturday on the waters of Lake Lanier outside Gainesville, Georgia.
Winning their respective finals, these athletes now must earn quota spots for the U.S. in each event in order to earn a ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The only opportunity to qualify for the Olympics will be the 2016 Pan American Championships, May 19-20, at the Lake Lanier venue, site of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games flatwater sprint competition. The paracanoeists, who hope to compete in their sport’s Paralympic debut, will travel to Duisberg, Germany, to compete in the ICF Paracanoe World Championships on May 17-19.
Allen transitioned from skiing to kayaking in 2012. Only a month after starting full-time training, she had claimed the title of national champion in women’s LTA K1, winning a spot on the U.S. paracanoe team. She placed fourth at her first world championships and followed that with a seventh-place finish a year later.
Pierce is the reigning world champion in women’s VL3 K1 200, which was her third worlds medal in this Paralympic cycle, joining a silver in 2012 and a bronze in 2013. She has placed in the top four at the past four world championships.
Among the paracanoeists who have earned the opportunity to qualify for Rio is Alana Nichols, who is seeking her fifth Paralympic appearance in her third sport. She was first in her KL2 classification with a time of 56.170. Nichols is the first U.S. Paralympian to earn gold at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games. A two-time member of the Paralympic wheelchair basketball team, she won gold in Beijing in 2008 and placed fourth in London. She also won five medals in the past two Paralympic Winter Games: gold in the downhill and giant slalom, silver in the super-G and bronze in the super combined in Vancouver, and a silver in downhill in Sochi. Nichols was nominated for an ESPY award three consecutive years (2010-12).
On the men’s side, Nik Miller won the Paralympic K1 200-meter final with a time of 44.933, more than 11 seconds ahead of second-place Danzig (Ziggy) Norberg, who crossed the finish in 56.213. Miller has raced at the last three world championships. He has recorded several domestic wins, including a pair of firsts at last year’s Lake Lanier Summer Regatta, where he won the K1 200 paracanoe and K1 200 masters able-bodied events.
Norberg first began competitive kayaking in 2011 and made the national team for the first time in 2012, competing at the world championships in Poland. He finished seventh in the VL2 men’s 200 at the 2015 world championships.
In the Paralympic men’s V1 200m final, Jamey Parks finished first with a time of 51.237 seconds, followed by Gregory Crouse at 56.490. Parks makes the national team for the third time. His best international result was a seventh-place finish at the 2014 world championships in Moscow. A U.S. Army veteran who lost his left leg while in the service, Crouse has two world championship bronze medals to his credit, won in 2010 and 2012.
Tim Hornsby won the men’s K1 200m to earn a chance at his second consecutive Olympic Games. He covered the course in 35.779, nearly a second ahead of Ryan Dolan. The lone U.S. men’s kayaker in London, Hornsby finished sixth in the K1 200-meter at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. The first Olympian produced by the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, he went to the Beijing 2008 Games as a training partner.
The men’s single canoe (C1) 200-meter event saw the closest finish in the finals when Ben Hefner took the gold with a time of 41.799, edging out Ian Ross, Friday’s winner at 500 meters, by 0.146 seconds. Hefner is a veteran of international competition, spending four years on the U.S. junior national team and representing the United States at a variety of world cup and world championship events.
Emily Wright took the women’s K1 200 in a time of 42.485 to claim her spot on the national team. A four-time national champion in marathon canoeing, she was the youngest person to complete a kayak crossing of Lake Ontario in 2002. She was part of the crew that won the women’s K2 1,000-meter and placed second in the K2 and K4 at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The men’s K2 200 went to Chris Miller and Stanton Collins in a time of 33.475. The duo won the 500-meter Friday to qualify for the men’s team and now will have two chances to earn an Olympic spot next month.
The Saturday winners round out the U.S. national team, joining Friday’s winners. Others included on the team are Ian and Gavin Ross in C2, Maggie Hogan in women’s K1 500, and Farran Smith and Samantha Barlow in women’s K2. Lydia Keefe Sampson also earned a place on the team in the women’s C1, a non-Olympic class, after winning both the 200 and 500. She was a member of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games team, finishing seventh in the women’s C1 200.