Local canoeist prepares to battle Olympic rapids in July

by Tori Hamby

Canoeist and U.S. National Whitewater Center instructor Casey Eichfeld will take part in this year’s Olympic Games in London. (Courtesy of Casey Eichfeld)

A Mountain Island area Olympic hopeful will be paddling his way toward a gold medal as the 2012 Summer Games get under way after opening ceremonies July 27.

Casey  Eichfeld, a 21-year-old instructor at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, found out he would be representing the U.S. in the canoe slalom event for the second time after qualifying for the games at the 2012 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Cardiff, Wales last month. Eichfeld finished sixth in the canoe single (C1) competition with a time of 106.22, 5.76 seconds behind first-place finisher David Florence of Great Britain.

Eichfeld’s time was low enough to push him into one of the United States’ remaining canoe slalom C1 spots.

Eichfeld has already arrived to London to prepare for the games, but he took some time to speak with the Monitor about his past Olympic experience, expectations for this year and busy training schedule.

MIM: You competed in the men’s double canoe (C2) division at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where you came in 11th place. What was your favorite memory from those games?

Eichfeld: My favorite memory from the last Olympics was sitting in the start gate of our race. I could see my partner and I on the jumbo screen and knew that my friends and family could see me at my first Olympics.

MIM: You arrived in London on June 27. How has your stay been so far?

Eichfeld: I have gotten to have one session on the water so far, but it was a good one. I love getting back to a course I know and feeling out all of the similar moves and waves. I love being on the water. It is one of my happiest feelings.

MIM: Describe and average day of Olympic training.

Eichfeld: Our training varies based on how far away from a competition we are. A lot of training is focused around technical aspects. We will do anywhere between one to three workouts a day, usually two in a boat and one on dry land.

When we are closer to races we will begin to taper from three to two and then down to one. Endurance workouts are scattered through our training cycles so that we can maintain good energy levels for the entirety of race funs.

MIM: How did you first get involved with the sport?

Eichfeld: I have been paddling my whole life. In fact, my parents bought my first boat before I was born. They knew that they wanted me to paddle with them recreationally, but I fell in love with the water and the sport.

I raced with my dad in family friendly races throughout Pennsylvania and then began racing those races by myself when I was 6. From there I moved into the national field and onto the international field when I was 14.

MIM: You’ve been training at the U.S. National Whitewater Center part time since 2007 and full-time since making the move from Pennsylvania to Charlotte in 2009. You also sometimes serve as an instructor and guide at the Whitewater Center away from training. What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Eichfeld: I love when someone is having trouble learning a skill and then all of a sudden gets it. Their face lights up and they become more confident. From there I can always teach them a little more quickly. There are always bumps with learning the paddle, but it is so much fun as long as you don’t let yourself get frustrated.

MIM: Do you have any advice for kids with Olympic aspirations?

Eichfeld: Future Olympians, do what you do because you love it. Sure, you can probably go far in a sport without that passion, but what is the point if you aren’t doing something you love. At the end of the day you can smile no matter what. We always hear that life is short, so make every moment count.

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