Nevin Harrison, 19, wins a rare U.S. gold medal in canoe sprint.


TOKYO — There aren’t many world-class canoers from the United States. There’s really just one.

At 17, Nevin Harrison was the only American to make a final at the last canoe/kayak sprint world championships in 2019. She won the gold medal.

At 19, she was the only American canoe or kayak sprinter to even qualify for the Olympics. On Thursday in the 200 meters, she won a gold medal again.

She blasted to victory in 45.932 seconds, beating Laurence Vincent-Lapointe of Canada and Liudmyla Luzan of Ukraine.

“I definitely was shaking a little at the start,” Harrison said after her win. “It was scary, to say the least.”

The 200 meters, almost a dead sprint from start to finish, is the shortest race on the Olympic program. Though Harrison says she does rest a bit in the second 50.

“It’s such a crazy big dream,” she said of the gold medal, “that it doesn’t even seem like it’s achievable.”

Canoe/kayak sprint is also called flat-water to distinguish it from the white-water canoe slalom events held earlier in the Games. Flat-water canoeing for women is making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics; before these Games, women had competed only in kayak.

“It’s been a hard journey because I didn’t have anyone to follow,” Harrison said. “I hope to be that person for the next generation.” She promised to return for the Paris Games in 2024.