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Nevin Harrison qualifies to defend Olympic canoe title

Nevin Harrison, who in Tokyo became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic canoe or kayak gold, qualified to defend her title in Paris.

Harrison, a 21-year-old Seattle native, won the U.S. Olympic Trials C-1 200m sprint in Sacramento, California, on Friday.

She became the first American to qualify for the Paris Games in any canoe or kayak event. More can join her later this spring.

Harrison won a second world title in 2022 and placed fourth at worlds last August, two months after suffering a back injury that kept her in bed for a week and out of the water for a month.

“I thought that if I won a gold medal (at the Tokyo Olympics), my life would be a fairy tale, rainbow magical adventure land, and that wasn’t the case,” Harrison told the NBC affiliate in Seattle in an interview published in February. “It actually got (a) hell of a lot harder.”

Harrison, who matriculated at San Diego State after Tokyo, said in that interview that she regained motivation after a hard time trying to enjoy the sport in the two years after her Olympic triumph.

“I’m the underdog again, I guess,” she said. “They think I fell back, but they’re not ready.”

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

The 2024 U.S. Olympic team roster of athletes updated as they qualify.