Bethesda’s Scott Parsons secured a third straight U.S. Olympic team berth in men’s kayaking with a dominant victory Saturday at a world cup event in Cardiff, Wales, and Darnestown’s Caroline Queen narrowly secured her first Olympic team slot in the women’s event, edging longtime friend Ashley Nee, also of Darnestown.
Wrapping up a three-step Olympic trials selection process that began last September, Parsons topped two other American men in Wales with his 11th-place finish in 97.62 seconds. He fell just .06 seconds short of earning a slot in the event’s final.
Queen, a Davidson College sophomore, won her Olympic berth in women’s kayak on a tiebreaker after finishing 35th overall, just ahead of Nee, who came home in 37th place.
Parsons and Queen were joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Casey Eichfeld of Drums, Pa., who qualified for his second straight Olympics but in a different event than in 2008. Eichfeld finished sixth in the men’s single canoe Saturday after representing the United States in double canoe at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Parsons and Queen train at the Potomac Whitewater Racing Center. Eichfeld, who considers Charlotte his current training home, also has trained at the center in the past
“It’s a relief,” Parsons said in a release from USA Canoe/Kayak. “Honestly, it’s hard to describe. The process has been physically and mentally exhausting. So at the moment, I’m not sure that the excitement is really going to kick in until a little later ...But I’m very, very excited. I’m really happy.”
Parsons’s U.S. leading finish at last September’s world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, and his first-place finish at the April Olympic trials in Charlotte, N.C., gave him the edge entering Saturday’s racing, but a poor performance could have ruined his Olympic hopes.
Jim Wade finished 18th and Brett Heyl was 29th; both needed finishes in the top 20 and above Parsons to have claimed the lone Olympic team slot.
Queen’s Olympic hopes were more uncertain, as she and Nee entered the event tied in qualifying points. Queen had topped Nee at last year’s world championships, there securing the lone U.S. women’s berth, but Nee finished first at the U.S. trials in Charlotte.
Because neither woman finished in the top-20 Saturday, the Olympic selection was decided on the tiebreaker, which favored Queen because of her performance at last year’s worlds.
“It’s kind of hard to believe at this point,” Queen said in the statement. “The selection process is so long. This morning I woke up and couldn’t believe it was here. And now that it’s done, I can’t believe that that’s all she wrote. But it is. It’s pretty incredible and I’m really glad that I’m with my family to share the moment and my teammates and coaches and staff and everybody.”
The victory was particularly sweet for Parsons, who had retired in frustration after failing to make the final at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Parsons returned to racing two years ago but feared he hadn’t allowed himself enough time to get back into top form.
“I wouldn’t say, ‘[I’m] on top of my game,’” Parsons said. “ I think I’m close. I’m looking forward to improving as much as I can in the time between now and London. I’m very close to the top of my game… I’m happy with where I am and I look forward to hopefully improving a little more before London.”