Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe always knew that as a six-time world champion she was going to be a focus of attention when women’s canoeing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, but this week she’s also receiving questions about how it is she is even on the start list.

Her main opponent in the women’s C1 200, USA’s Nevin Harrison, admitted it was “strange” to find the 29-year-old’s name on the start sheet, while other athletes admitted to feeling “frustrated” that Vincent-Lapointe was able to compete.

After returning a positive doping test in 2019, and then missing out on Olympic selection when she was cleared to return to competition, almost everyone believed the Canadian’s Olympic dream was over.

But Canada was able to use a rule that allows athletes to compete in other canoe sprint events at the Olympics, opening the door for Vincent-Lapointe’s selection. She will now compete in both the C1 and C2 in Tokyo.

Very few people saw it coming, including opponents like Harrison.

“I know it could be frustrating for some girls”

“It’s definitely an added pressure and stress,” Harrison said.

“I know we didn’t think she was going to be here until a couple of weeks ago, so it was strange to find that out and I know it could be frustrating for some girls. But I’m here to race, I’m here to beat who I have to, so I’m excited.

“I’m sure Laurence and I are going to put up a strong fight.”

Vincent-Lapointe’s shock doping result came back on the eve of the 2019 world championships, which was also a major Olympic selection event. With Vincent-Lapointe out, the then 18-year-old Harrison stepped up to take over the mantle as world champion and, up until a fortnight ago, Olympic favourite.

Vincent-Lapointe knows not everyone is thrilled she is racing in Tokyo.

“Honestly, most of them seem to be fine, I’ve had a lot of people tell me they are happy that I’m here,” she said.

“For sure, there will be some people, I don’t know if they are frustrated or if they are so focussed on themselves that they are not going to talk to people who could do well.

“You know what, I’ve proved that I could be here, I’ve done everything in the last years to make it here, and I think I deserve to be here. If someone is still mad, well there’s nothing I can do. I’ll just do my best.

“It’s been crazy, and there have been moments when I could have thought that I wasn’t going to make it, but weirdly enough I have always had in myself that I would be here. Even through everything that I’ve been through, it just felt that I would be here.”

“If someone is still mad, well there’s nothing I can do”

It sets the scene for an epic C1 200 showdown on Thursday, the debut of women’s canoeing at the Olympic Games. That fact alone would have been enough to make Thursday’s race significant, but with the added spice of the selection dramas, the stakes are much higher.

Vincent-Lapointe and Harrison are looking forward to the challenge.

“I’ve never raced against her, I assume its going to be a pretty exciting race,” the Canadian said.

“I’m just going to focus on what happens in my boat, and just do my best until the end.”

Harrison said there is a lot of depth in the field.

“There are so many girls that are so strong, and we’re all so close,” Harrison said.

“I guess whoever you favour, could be a favourite, but I think I’ve out down fast times, so I do feel the pressure, but at the end of the day I know I’m up against some really strong competitors, so I’m going to have to bring my A game.”

The women’s C1 200 final will be held at 11.57am Tokyo time.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

USA Nevin Harrison C1 200 canoe sprint Tokyo Olympics


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