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

Paddling sensation Evy Leibfarth of Bryson City, NC earns the U.S. two spots in the 2020 Olympics

Evy Leibfarth, 15, of Bryson City, NC, has earned the United States a spot to compete for gold in both the slalom kayak and the slalom canoe events at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The teen secured the U.S. spot in the slalom kayak while competing at the senior International Canoe Federation Slalom Canoe World Championships in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain on September 27. On September 29, Leibfarth went on to make history by becoming the youngest and first American woman to qualify the U.S. for a spot in slalom canoe at the Olympics. 

Because slalom kayak and slalom canoe are relatively small sports, International Canoe Federation rules indicate that only the top 18 countries can earn a spot in slalom kayak at the Olympic games and only the top 11 countries can qualify for a spot to compete for a medal in the slalom canoe. Thanks to Leibfarth’s speedy times, the U.S. will compete in both events. In the spring, Leibfarth will compete in the Olympic team trails. If she wins, she will represent the United States in both the slalom kayak and slalom canoe events during the 2020 Olympics.  

Leibfarth has been a part of the paddling community nearly all of her life. “I practically grew up at the Nantahala Outdoor Center,” she told Blue Ridge Outdoors in August. Leibfarth’s parents, both accomplished paddlers, introduced their daughter to the sport at a young age. Her father, U.S. national team coach Lee Leibfarth, acts as her coach. 

Leibfarth says she plans to train and compete in canoe slalom for a long time. While her current focus is on Tokyo, she already has her sights set on competing in the 2028 Olympics, which will be held in the U.S.A. 

Read more about Leibfarth in our September Issue