Devin McEwan will follow in his father’s Olympic footsteps and Casey Eichfeld will have the rare opportunity to seek two medals in canoe slalom after the International Canoe Federation awarded the United States an additional athlete quota spot for men’s canoe double (C2) at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
After dominating their event at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, McEwan and Eichfeld still had to await an ICF decision regarding the allotment of the additional quota spots, which came Friday.
The wait was caused because the ICF had capped the number of athlete quota spots a nation could earn through world championships or continental qualifiers to two. With their results at the 2015 world championships, Eichfeld had secured one spot in men’s single canoe (C1), while Michal Smolen earned one in men’s single kayak (K1).
McEwan and Eichfeld’s gold medal in men’s double canoe (C2) at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games would have earned the U.S. two more athlete spots, but because of the spots earned at worlds they were returned to an allotment pool to be distributed once all continental qualifiers were complete. That process ended last weekend with the European continental qualifier, and the ICF awarded the C2 spot to McEwan and Eichfeld Friday. The U.S. team benefited from Eichfeld winning at trials in two events, because it created an athlete quota spot vacancy that was awarded to Ashley Nee in women’s single kayak.
With his selection, McEwan will become the second member of his family to compete in canoe slalom at the Olympic Games. His dad, the late Jamie McEwan, made history as the first American to win an Olympic medal in slalom when, at the age of 19, he took bronze in men’s single canoe (C1) during the sport’s debut at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games; however, it would not return to the Olympic program until the Barcelona 1992 Games. The elder McEwan then made history once again as the first two-time canoe slalom Olympian. He and his partner, Lecky Haller, finished fourth in C2.
Eichfeld will race in his his third Olympic Games in Rio. He and then-partner Rick Powell placed 11th in C2 at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, then Eichfeld went solo to earn a spot on the London 2012 team, where he placed 14th.
In addition to their gold in Toronto, Eichfeld and McEwan have won the U.S. national team trials each of the last three years. They have placed as high as 12th on the world cup circuit during this Olympic cycle.
The United States will field a full canoe/kayak slalom team in Rio, racing in all four events.