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Olympic Dreams: Seattle’s Nevin Harrison sets sights on Olympic gold, world record

Nevin Harrison became the first American female sprint canoe world champion at the age of 17. Now, she has some bigger dreams to chase in Tokyo.

SEATTLE — Seattle native Nevin Harrison quickly became a rock star in the canoe world.

Harrison is not only the best paddler in the United States but also a world champion. She's hungry for Olympic gold and a world record.

“At the Olympics, every single country is going to put way more effort in that compared to any world championship, so it's going to take a lot of work, and now there's more pressure,” Harrison said. “I think that's kind of been the biggest motivator. I don't want to let down, you know, people who have been cheering me on, or my family, or especially myself because now that I've done this, I have incredibly high standards for myself.”

Harrison did not waste much time during the COVID-19 pandemic wondering if the Olympic games would take place. She just worked harder to get stronger and faster.

“I mean, the days you aren't training, it's resting," Harrison said. "You can't really have a normal life because everything is dedicated to those fractions of a second that you can get. It's crazy, you put in years and years of your life for a race that's less than a minute long. So, one wrong move and it's over, but you know that's what we do, that's the adrenaline, that's the high stakes, and it's exciting, but it's scary, but I've learned to love it. And, you know, even if I don't quite fulfill my goals, I guess it's still worth it because it's been an incredible experience.”

On March 20, the 18-year-old from Roosevelt High School qualified for the Olympics.

“It’s so exciting to finally be officially on the team,” Harrison said. “This is giving us an opportunity to really commit fully to all of our plans, and I'm really excited for this next year. It's a dream come true, and I can't wait to represent the [United States].”

Harrison could become the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic canoe or kayak title. While she said she can’t wait for the moment, she admits it will not be easy not having her mom and dad on hand to watch. No fans from outside of Japan are allowed into this year’s games due to the pandemic.

“Yeah, I mean, that's frustrating because, you know, we work our whole lives towards this," Harrison said. "So, when it's not quite to where we think it's going to be, it's disappointing, but at the end of the day, we're there to compete."

The world record in the 200-meter event is 44.5 seconds. Harrison has done it in 45 seconds but said there is a good chance if she wants to win gold, she will also need to break the world record at the same time.