Ashley Nee’s Olympic dreams are coming true after the International Canoe Federation awarded the United States an additional athlete quota spot in canoe/kayak slalom women’s single kayak (K1W) for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Emerging victorious from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, Nee still had to await an ICF decision regarding the allotment of the additional quota spots, which came Friday.
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, Michal Smolen and Casey Eichfeld each earned one, in men’s single kayak (K1) and men’s single canoe (C1), respectively.
Eichfeld and Devin McEwan’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. The ICF awarded the U.S. a spot in C2 on Friday, and because Eichfeld is participating in two events, an athlete quota spot vacancy was created and awarded to Nee.
The Road to Rio has been longer for Nee than most. She qualified the United States for a spot at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, but suffered a dislocated shoulder during the test event for the course in China. After being sidelined for five months, she was unable to recover form in time for the 2008 trials, placing fourth as Heather Corrie won. She was even closer in 2012, racing well enough to score the points necessary for selection but losing a tiebreaker that tipped in favor of Caroline Queen.
Nee has raced at the last three world championships, with a top finish of 38th in 2014. She also has been active on the world cup circuit this quadrennium, placing as high as 23rd.
A native of Darnestown, Maryland, she currently resides in Bethesda, a hotbed of whitewater canoeing talent since for more than 40 years. It is the same area that produced two-time Olympic women’s kayak medalist Dana Chladek.
The United States will be represented in all four canoe/kayak slalom events in Rio.