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Less Than One Second – In Olympic Time

by | Jul 29, 2021

Incoming Davidson student, Olympian Evy Leibfarth, in the Kayak Slalom. [screenshot from]


Incoming Davidson first year student Evy Leibfarth, a 17-year-old from Bryson City, North Carolina, missed the finals of the Olympic Kayak Slalom by less than one second. The tenth-place semifinalist had a time of 111.76, Evy had a 112.73.

Evy was the youngest of 82 athletes in the Kayak competition and completed two runs in the initial qualifying heats. Her preliminary runs easily put her in the top 24 of the world, earning a spot in the semifinals.

Born in Sylva, Evy is evidently going to take a gap semester in the wake of the Olympics. She is expected to arrive in Davidson for the spring semester in early 2022.

For those who didn’t stay up for the middle-of-the-night live coverage, you can still stream it using your existing TV provider’s online service or by setting up an account with Peacock – the NBC streaming service. (Note – if you are a former Continuum, now TDS customer – you need to select “Continuum-TDS” in the drop-down menu on the NBC site.)

While she didn’t make the Kayak Slalom finals, Evy’s Olympics weren’t over. She also earned her way into the Canoe Slalom semifinals.

Evy Leibfarth in the Olympic Canoe Slalom. [screenshot from]

Full confession, while I know the difference between a kayak and an old school canoe – I didn’t fully understand the difference in terms of Olympic competition. It turns out that the International Canoe Federation has several helpful videos. Bottom line, the Olympic slalom canoe is probably not what you think it is.

In the kayak, competitors are seated with their legs extended out in front of them. Their feet operate peddles that control a small rudder at the back of the kayak. The kayak is 3.5 meters long and weighs 8 kg or roughly 17.5 pounds. The single canoe is the same size as the kayak. Instead of being seated, competitors kneel in the boat. They are strapped in with their legs underneath them. It is a quick release to ensure the competitor can get out in an emergency.

Additionally, the paddle is different. The Canoe paddle is a single blade, with a “t” handle at the other end. The Kayak paddle has blades on both ends.

After placing 12th in the world in the kayak slalom, Evy Leibfarth placed 18th in the canoe slalom. She had two great runs in preliminary heats but missed a gate in her semi-final run and earned a 50-second penalty.

Commentators used superlatives to talk about the skills of the youngest Olympic canoe/kayak athlete. [screenshot from]

Whether in the canoe or kayak slaloms, preliminary heats or semifinals – the NBC Olympic broadcasters were consistent in their praise for Evy. They all commented on her youth, her poise and skill on the Olympic stage, and they expect her to return to many future Olympic games. And with the next Summer Olympics only three years away, Evy will still be a student when she vies for a spot on the team heading to Paris.

Davidson College recently profiled this member of the Class of 2025 in the following online article. Oh, and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the 17-year-old also has her own website.

As many of our readers know, it isn’t uncommon to see kayaks on the tops of cars around town. The same is true if you drive through campus.

Come January, if you happen to see a student’s car with a kayak on top – look closer. Our guess is that there might be an Olympic sticker on one of those kayaks.

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