Event/Discipline: Canoe Slalom, K1
Height: 5'10"
Current Residence: Charlotte, NC
Club: Nantahala Racing Club
School: University of North Carolina

Career Highlights

  • 2004 Olympian
  • 3-time Pan American Champion
  • 4-time U.S. National Champion
  • 2nd at 2008 World Cup - overall standings
  • 2nd at 2008 Oceanic Championships
  • 10th at 2010 Pre-World Championships
  • 2010 National Champion

Recent Results

  • 13th place at 2012 Oceania Open
  • Reached semifinals at the 2012 Australian Open - placing 32nd
  • 2011 US National Slalom Team Member
  • Reached the semifinals at 2011 World Cups Nos. 3 & 4 - placing 19th at World Cup No. 3
  • Reached 2nd round at London 2012 Olympic Test Event
  • Placed 19th in Men's Kayak at 2011 Slalom World Championships


  • Job: Student-athlete
  • Hobbies: Photography
  • Quote: "Champions are the ones bent over in exhaustion when no one is watching."
  • Role Model: Mia Hamm, she's the greatest ever, inspired millions and humble.
  • Website: www.brettheyl.com

If he were a swimmer or skier you would know him by now. But he is a whitewater slalom kayaker, so you don't. In 2008, he finished 2nd in the World Cup. This was a huge achievement. But being an Olympic year, the only thing people cared about was the Games. He won the 2008 Olympic Trials in Charlotte, NC, but stumbled in the final selection race. Funny enough, it was that same result that secured his World Cup overall medal. It's funny how things work sometimes.

So What's His Story?

These days it takes something pretty remarkable to stand out. Our generation is seeing athletes winning more than 6 medals in single Olympics. We saw a cancer survivor win the Tour de France at will. The Lopez family has 4 family members on the 2008 Olympic Team. Not to mention that every female athlete seems to be a model. The publicity bar has been raised so high that it is nearly impossible to stand out.

He, along with his family have faced adversity, but nothing that handfuls of other athletes haven't endured. No, his story is just the opposite of all of these. These people were handed exceptional situations in which to rise. He is an average person doing exceptional things. He has had to find ways to be better than the rest; ways to stand out, and rise above. That is Brett's story. He's normal. Brett is a testament to what average can achieve. Failing to make the Olympics in 2008 has given Brett his defining moment. Watch Brett between now and London in 2012 as he pushes the boundaries of what an average guy can accomplish as he claws his way back onto the Olympic Team.

What Are His Best Results?

His most notable achievement was racing for the USA in Athens at the 2004 Games. However, this is not what he is most proud of. While being an Olympian is certainly a defining title, he is hoping that it is not the end-all of sport. Being a 4x National Champion, 3x Pan-Am Champion, winner of the 2008 Olympic Trials and World Cup overall medalist are much more important to him. The variety of titles shows his consistency, and ability to race well in all types of conditions.

Brett's Other Interests

While kayaking is certainly a full-time job, recovery is a vital part of being an athlete. Brett's primary hobby is photography. His travels allow him to visit some of the world's most beautiful places. From Iguacu Falls to Prague he races all over the world, and the nature of training and competing give him plenty of free time to take pictures.

Being an Active Part of the Charlotte, NC Community

Athletes are known for their contributions to their local communities. Brett is no exception. While high-paid professional athletes are able to give large sums of money to support the causes that are close to their heart, Brett has to be more creative. Now that he is entering the beginning of a new Olympic cycle, he is looking for all possible ways in which he can become a more helpful member of the Charlotte community. Whether he is talking to school groups about the value of hard work and goal setting, or contributing to publications about nutrition and proper exercise, Brett embraces his position to help others live a more healthy, enjoyable and successful life through the lessons he has learned as an Elite Olympic Athlete.