Casey EichfeldCanoeNews

Veteran Slalom Canoeist and ‘Girl Dad’ Casey Eichfeld Poised to Battle Olympic Whitewater

by Brian Pinelli

Casey Eichfeld competes during the men's canoe slalom heats at the 2022 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships on July 29, 2022 in Augsburg, Germany. (Photo by Getty Images)

As Casey Eichfeld enters his C-1 boat to compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the whitewater will be churning turbulently, the slalom course set will be extremely difficult and his international competition will be fierce – all similar to his previous three Olympics.

However, for the 34-year-old American slalom canoeist, the moment will be unlike ever before. Eichfeld will navigate the swirling whitewater course with his newest Olympic fan nearby – 2-year-old daughter Emilia.

Eichfeld, now a proud ‘Girl Dad’ along with wife Sarah, says he will cherish the moment in this new chapter of life.

“She’s amazing – I’m so glad that she is who she is,” Eichfeld tells Team USA. “She’s constantly going – this kiddo just has never ending energy.

“I’m super excited – they’re going to come to Paris. She is the joy of my life and if I stopped paddling today and didn’t go to the Olympics, I would be completely fine.

“Paddling has been my entire life – 34 years I’ve known nothing else, it has been my entire focus. Then this tiny little human pops out and you’re like ‘my goodness, this is going to be a little bit different now.’”

For Eichfeld’s already worldly two-year-old child, the Olympic Games in Paris will be a return trip to the elegant French capital.

“Emi is a really fortunate toddler – she’s already traveled the world numerous times now and in fact, has been to Paris. She was like ‘what’s that building over there?’ and I’m like ‘that’s the Eiffel Tower sweetheart, it’s one of the coolest pieces of architecture in the entire world,’” Eichfeld says with a chuckle.

Paddling at Internatioal Canoe Federation (ICF) World Cup races throughout Europe, much of Eichfeld’s summers are spent oceans apart from family. This upcoming Father’s Day, June 16, he will be racing in Krakow, Poland. The holiday will surely hold special meaning for Eichfeld and family, albeit from afar.

“I’ll certainly miss my family and will definitely get some Zoom time with them,” Casey says. “Honestly, it’s not a whole lot different than most days – I try to get some time with them every day to see their faces and watch Emi play.”

Originally from Pennsylvania, Eichfeld and his family reside in Charlotte, North Carolina, home, where he hones his skills along with U.S. teammates at the nearby U.S. National Whitewater Training Center.

Eichfeld punched his ticket to a fourth Games at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Canoe/Kayak in Oklahoma City in late April. He edged out his longtime teammate and friendly rival Zachary “Bug” Lokken.

“I remember thinking in the start gate, however this turns out, I’ve stil had an awesome career and I’m so excited to go home to my family and hug my daughter,” Eichfeld said. “I literally thought about her little arms around my neck, and then the start beep went off and I was like ‘Ok, lets go do this.’”

Eichfeld executed and succeded. “I was absolutely stoked on a performance that was exactly when I needed it,” he said.

He will become the first American canoeist to compete in four Olympics in the whitewater (or slalom) discipline.

(L-R) Casey Eichfeld spending time with his daughter, Emilia, at Penrith Whitewater Rafting near Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Photo courtesy of Casey Eichfeld)

A 17-year veteran on the U.S. national team, Eichfeld made his Olympic debut as an 18-year-old at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, competing in the now discontinued C-2 category. Eichfeld achieved his best performance over three Games at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, where he finished seventh in the C-1 event. The U.S. paddler has competed in both C-1 and C-2 at each of his three Olympic appearances.

Eichfeld prepares for his fourth Olympic journey in the right frame of mind to attack a grueling 300-meter course at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, east of Paris. It has been nearly a decade since Eichfeld won two gold medals at the Pan American Games Toronto 2015, however the veteran canoeist exudes newfound confidence.

“I’m absolutely going to get in that starting gate fighting for that podium,” Eichfeld says, about the C-1 final scheduled for Monday, July 29. “I feel like lately I’ve had a bit of a jump and I’m on a new plateau because things are feeling more comfortable. Maybe that comes from the fact that I do have something that is more important in my life now.”

Team USA has not brought home an Olympic gold medal in canoe slalom since the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992, when Joe Jacobi and Scott Strausbaugh teamed for a C-2 victory. The last American Olympic medalist, male or female, was Rebecca Giddens, who paddled to K-1 silver at the Olympic Games Athens 2004.

Perhaps Eichfeld, or his 20-year-old U.S. Olympic teammate and rising star Evy Leibfarth, will find the perfect flow and end the lengthy medal drought.

“I’ll be fighting for the podium and whether I win or swim, I’m going to go home ok,” Eichfeld says, also joking that if he swims, he might be “a little or even very ashamed.”

Regarding Evy’s potential, Casey says: “She has a really awesome opportunity to be a great role model for the future of women in the sport – canoe, kayak and kayak cross, so it’s really cool to have her around.”

Eichfeld is a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic as he and wife Sarah were married at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. Battling intimidating waves, swirling eddies and powerfully flowing pathways at the Paris Olympic venue will naturally be more adrenaline enducing than the log flume, however Mickey and Minnie won’t be too far away.

“Disney is a huge thing for us,” Eichfeld informs, in a fun, yet serious tone.

Regardless of how he finishes in the C-1 standings, one thing is certain: Disneyland Paris will be a welcoming destination for the Eichfeld clan.

“The venue is very close to Disneyland, so I really like that – I’ll definitely be going to Disneyland with Emi and Sarah,” Eichfeld says. “It’s going to be fun to have the whole family there and share this with them. I’m just excited to have them nearby.”