Go OutsideGoing for Olympic Gold

Going for Olympic Gold

A 17-Year-Old North Carolina Slalom Canoeist Is Headed to Tokyo 

Evy Leibfarth, a 17-year-old slalom canoeist and kayaker from Bryson City, N.C., will be competing in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, among the youngest athletes representing the United States. The up-and-coming paddler claimed her spot in April when she won the women’s canoe single (C-1) at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Charlotte.

Evy Leibfarth runs the Sava River during the World Cup in Tacen, Slovenia. Photo by Jean Folger

Leibfarth will have a chance to become the first female Olympic champion for the slalom C-1, as the event is making its debut on the women’s side this year—the first time men and women will have the same number of slalom events at the games. The event will be replacing the men’s canoe double (C-2). 

“It’s the first time women’s canoe will be contested in the Olympics, and it would be a great honor to represent the U.S.,” Leibfarth stated last year on a GoFundMe page set up to assist with her training efforts.

Those efforts have paid off; Leibfarth will get the opportunity to be one of the first Americans to medal in canoe/kayak slalom or sprint since 2004, when Rebecca Giddens earned K-1 silver at the Athens Olympics.   

At her first canoe slalom world championships back in 2019, Leibfarth secured Team USA’s C-1 quota spot with a fourth-place finish in Spain, which allows Leibfarth to compete in both the C-1 and K-1 events at the Tokyo Games. Postponed from last year, the Summer Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8. It will be the second time Japan’s capital city has hosted the games—the first being in 1964.

While the first of two slalom trials of the U.S. Olympic selection competitions in 2021 took place earlier in the spring, the second will take place during the International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Cup (ICF CSL World Cup) in Prague, Czech Republic, this month from June 11-13.

According to Team USA, the Tokyo Olympic venue is similar to the Charlotte location—both man-made waters with tricky moves, which Leibfarth feels she does best on.

Evy Leibfarth
photo by Brian Hall

“For me racing is about what I can do, not about what other people do,” Leibfarth told Team USA. “I want to put down runs I’m really happy with. I want to have fun and cheer on all of my friends and be a part of this incredible experience, but when it comes down to it, I’m racing for me and I just want to have fun there.”  

“For me racing is about what I can do, not about what other people do,” Leibfarth told Team USA. “I want to put down runs I’m really happy with. I want to have fun and cheer on all of my friends and be a part of this incredible experience, but when it comes down to it, I’m racing for me and I just want to have fun there.”  

Cover photo by Brian Hall

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