Nevin Harrison celebrates medaling in the C1 200-meter canoe sprint at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 30, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
If you haven’t heard of Nevin Harrison, you have now.
Harrison became the first American ever to win a world title in a canoe sprint event, winning gold in the women’s C1 200-meter at the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, on Saturday.
What’s more, women’s canoe makes its Olympic debut next year at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, so the stakes have never been higher.
With her mom and dad in the crowd, the 17-year-old became just the second American to win an individual world championship in sprint canoe or kayak, joining Greg Barton. Barton won four kayak world titles in the 1980s and ‘90s, as well as four Olympic medals. No U.S. woman has ever won Olympic gold in a kayak event. The last medal was won by Rebecca Giddens in the K1 slalom, a silver in 2004.
Now, should she qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, she’ll be heading to the Olympics as the reigning world champion.
Harrison got out to a blazing start in the final and never faltered, holding off a decorated field to win with a time of 49.30 seconds. Olesia Romasenko of Russia took silver in 49.74 seconds, while Alena Nazdrova of Belarus took bronze in 49.99.
When she crossed the line and saw the result, she covered her mouth in shock.
“I have no words right now,” she said. “It’s unreal. Wow. So much more than I ever thought.
“All these people, I aspire to be like them. What a moment.”
Harrison finished third in her heat and second in her semifinal, advancing to the final in lane seven of nine.
In Tokyo, Harrison would have the potential to become the youngest woman ever to earn gold in Olympic canoe or kayak, breaking the record of Birgit Fischer-Schmidt. Fischer-Schmidt was 18 when she won her first of eight gold medals in 1980.