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Top canoe/kayak stories to watch in Rio

Top canoe/kayak stories to watch in Rio

Top five stories to follow in Olympic canoe/kayak during the 2016 Rio Games

The 2016 Rio Games are right around the corner and the waters of Whitewater Stadium and Lagao Rodrigo de Freitas will host the Olympic canoe/kayak competitions. Here are the top five stories that will take place on that lake from Aug. 7 - 20. 

Third time’s a charm

Ashley Nee patiently awaited the decision by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) to award her an athlete quota spot after she won the 2016 Canoe/Kayak Olympic Slalom Team Trials in the women’s kayak single (K1).

Ashley Nee; 2016 U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Trials

Ashley Nee during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Trials. Credit: Ronald Martinez; 2016 Getty Images

Nee got the call and the good news, she will represent Team USA in her first Olympic appearance after two previously failed attempts: In 2008, a promising path to the Beijing Games was cut short when Nee couldn’t recover in time from a shoulder injury. Before the 2012 London Games, Caroline Queen and Nee were tied in points after the Olympic Trials. However, a tie breaker prevented Nee from advancing to London. 

Ashley Nee; 2016 U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Trials

Anna Maria Ifarraguerri (right) reaches to hug Ashley Nee (left) after Nee's second run during the final day of the Slalom Team Trials. Credit: Chuck Burton; 2016 The Associated Press

Dual citizen – one flag

Polish-born Smolen overcame his fear of the water, learned to paddle, trained and excelled in competitive kayaking – all in the United States. His 2012 Olympic dreams as a representative of Team USA came to a close after a hard-fought battle to acquire expedited U.S. citizenship fell short.

Patience pays off for Polish-born kayaker competing for U.S.

Michal Smolen could become the first American to win a medal in singles slalom kayaking.

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His last opportunity for a chance to compete at the London Games was to compete under Poland’s flag but he decided it wasn’t worth it. Eventually, Smolen became an American citizen six months after the 2012 London Olympics ended. All of that is in the past, now, Smolen will be competing for gold in the men’s K1 slalom in Rio – as an American.

Winning gold in London – watching from home in Rio

Great Britain’s Ed McKeever won gold in the men’s K1 200-meter sprint at the London Games.

However, after multiple attempts, McKeever failed to qualify for the Rio Games.

The bronze medalist in the event, Mark de Jonge, heads to Rio as the K1 200m favorite. The Canadian engineer – who almost stepped away from the sport – failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games but decided to return once the K1 200m event was added to the London Games lineup. De Jonge is the current K1 200m world record holder.

Mark de Jonge celebrates after winning bronze at the 2012 London Games

Mark de Jonge celebrates after winning bronze in the men's K1 200m at the 2012 London Games. Credit: 2016 The Associated Press

Kiwi speed racer

Not only did New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington win gold in the women’s K1 200m at the London Games, but she is also a four-time world champion.

Lisa Carrington at the 2012 London Olympics

New Zealand's Lisa Carrington celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's K1 200m at the London Games. Credit: Kyle Terada; USA Today Sports

At the Rio Games, Carrington is the favorite in the K1 200m and perhaps the favorite in the women’s K1 500m – which she won at the 2015 World Championships.

Lisa Carrington at the NZOC Rio Session

Lisa Carrington, a 27-year-old sprint kayaker poses for a portrait at the New Zealand Olympic Committee Rio Session on February 29, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: 2016 Getty Images

Sprint out of water

There have been multiple reports and water quality investigations exhibited by the Associated Press regarding the poor water quality in Rio de Janeiro and viruses found in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – Rio’s canoe sprint venues.

However, it’s not just the water that is getting the canoe/kayak sprint community’s attention – it’s also doping.

Romania and Belarus were top offenders and were disqualified for the Rio Games. Their doping violations made numerous open quota spots available, which were reallocated by the ICF.

Romania, Belarus canoe teams banned from Olympics for doping

Both teams have been hit with one-year suspensions for widespread doping

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