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An American Makes Canoe Sprint History At The Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — An American teenager has made history at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Nevin Harrison, 19, became the first female athlete from the U.S. to win a gold medal in the sport of canoe sprint.

By winning a new event, the women's 200-meter canoe single, Harrison not only became the first U.S. woman to claim gold, but Games statisticians say she's only the third female teenager to win an Olympic canoe sprint race. Harrison beat her one-time idol and now rival, Canadian Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, who has won multiple world championships and took silver in the 200 meters.

Harrison, a 2019 world champion, hopes her historic win can help make the sport more popular in America.

"We have a really amazing community in the U.S.," Harrison said, "but it's a small one; there aren't a lot of athletes involved. So I'm hoping this can really help put it on the map and get girls like me involved, and boys. Because it's a cool sport. It's fun, it's competitive and it would be awesome to kind of get the U.S. up to the same level as a lot of countries that we're competing against."

American Nevin Harrison holds up her gold medal on the podium following the women's canoe single 200-meter final.
Luis Acosta / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
American Nevin Harrison holds up her gold medal on the podium following the women's canoe single 200-meter final.

Also Thursday, New Zealand's Lisa Carrington won her third kayak gold medal of these Games and fifth gold of her Olympic career, stretching back to 2012 in London.

She has now won more gold medals than any other Olympian in her country's history.

"It is really special," Carrington said. "Growing up, to be an Olympian was the epitome of who you wanted to be. For me [this was] something I never thought I would be able to do."

Carrington still can add to her medal total. She'll take part in the women's kayak four 500 meters beginning Friday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.