Writer: Aaron Mann | USACK - With the azaleas in full bloom, athletes from across the nation have come to the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC for the 2016 USA Canoe/Kayak Olympic Team Trials (April 8-9). This competition will serve as the first of two domestic Olympic Team Trials events.
After finishing third at the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships and earning a substantial point lead in the Olympic selection process, Michal Smolen (Gastonia, NC) aims to book his ticket to Rio with a top result in the men's single kayak (K1) category. To lockdown a spot on the Olympic Team at this first domestic selection event, Smolen must finish third or better here in Charlotte.
In the men's single canoe (C1) class, two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld (Drums, PA) hopes to earn a trip to his third Olympic Games. Eichfeld is also sporting a solid point lead over the field as a result of his fourth place finish at last year's World Championships. With no less than a second place finish at this event, Eichfeld can solidify his position on the 2016 Olympic Team.
The race for the Olympic Team is wide open in the women's single kayak (K1W) category. Pan American Games Bronze Medalist Ashley Nee (Darnestown, MD) looks to start her road to Rio with a win at this event. After giving birth to her first child in 2015, Dana Mann (Alexandria, VA) will try to qualify for her first Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the young Anna Maria Ifarraguerri (McLean, VA) hopes to build off her strong early-season performances and punch her ticket to Rio.
In the men's double canoe (C2) event, the 2015 Pan American Games Gold Medalist team of Devin McEwan (Salisbury, CT) and Casey Eichfeld will lay it all on the line as they make their Olympic push. Though they just began paddling together last season, the duo of Zach "Bug" Lokken (Durango, CO) and Michal Smolen have shown they can be a force and now have their sights set on victory.
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