Talk about throwing down when you need to. At this past weekend’s Pan American Championships in Foz do Iguassu, Brazil, with the U.S.’s sole C-1 and C-2 London Olympic spots on the line, U.S. paddlers Eric Hurdand and Jeff Larimer took first in the Men’s C-2 final, and Benn Fraker took home the Gold medal in Men’s C-1, ensuring the U.S. will have Olympians in both the C-1 and C-2 categories at the London 2012 Summer Games.
“While I am sure Benn and Casey would have loved to have qualified the C1 spot at last year’s World Championships, this process has made our program stronger and represents a critical step on the road to London,” says USACK executive director Joe Jacobi, a C-2 gold medalist from 1992. “Securing a full slalom team for London required a huge team effort in which we saw the development and talent of our Pan American competitors dramatically improve. We’re proud of our athletes, coaches and staff who executed a great game plan and accomplished this important goal.”
The U.S. has already qualified for one Olympic slot in both the men’s and women’s slalom kayak categories, as well as in the men’s and women’s single sprint boat categories. In all, six men’s U.S. C-1 and C-2 paddlers went down to try and qualify a spot for the London 2012 Games. Having accomplished their hard-earned goal, Hurdand, Larimer, Fraker, and the three other U.S. canoeists will continue to compete for the opportunity to fill it. Who gets to go will be determined at the 2012 Slalom National Team Trials in Charlotte, N.C., April 12-14, which is the first stop on the 2012 World Cup circuit.
“Nobody is in yet,” says Jacobi. “Carrie Johnson could be the first to lock up in April and Ryan Dolan would in after OKC Trials with a win. Slalom won’t be firmed up until June but Larimer/Hurd would be looking strong with a first or second place finish at the Trials in Charlotte.”
Still, Jacobi is optimistic about the future. “The quality of C-2 racing around the world continues to improve and qualifying a start position at the Olympic Games is more challenging to accomplish each year,” he says. “Jeff and Eric brought the exact spirit our slalom program needed today – they took some bold risks on the water, were extremely confident and most importantly they executed a great plan for fixing small mistakes. They were the best boat on the continent that day and I’m thrilled that a C-2 will represent the United States at the Olympic Games in London.”