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American teen Nevin Harrison wins gold in historic women’s 200-meter canoe sprint

Nevin Harrison
Gold medalist Nevin Harrison of Team USA celebrates at the medal ceremony following the Women’s Canoe Single 200m Final A on Day 13 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sea Forest Waterway on August 5, 2021.

Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

American teen Nevin Harrison won gold in the inaugural women’s canoe single 200-meter final in Tokyo on Thursday, becoming the first winner of the Olympic event. She took home the U.S.’ first canoe or kayak sprint medal since 1992. 

The 19-year-old was dominant in her race, paddling in just under 46 seconds and leading through most of it from start to finish. Harrison, who became world champion of the event at 17 years old, broke down in tears after her Tokyo Olympics victory. In a post-race interview, the Seattle native said she was “speechless.”

“This is crazy,” she said. “This is a dream come true. I’m just so grateful for my support system. My friends, my family, my coach … this is wild.”

Olympics organizers added the event to the Tokyo Games, almost three decades after men were included in the event. The event won’t make an appearance at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Harrison was the youngest competitor in the race and the only representative from the U.S. in the event. She was the first American to win a medal in canoeing since Rebecca Giddens won a women’s slalom K1 silver in 2004. Her win is also the U.S.’ first canoe or kayak sprint gold medal since 1988 when star sprint kayaker Greg Barton. He later won bronze in 1992 in Barcelona. 

The medal comes years after Harrison shifted from her original Olympic dreams. According to Yahoo Sports, she was 14 years old when doctors diagnosed her with hip dysplasia and she had to give up dreams of winning sprints in the 100 and 200 meters. Now, she’s a gold medalist in women’s canoe competition.

“It feels like a crazy dream,” she shared on Twitter, with photos of her wearing her gold medal. 

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