Final Olympic team selection this weekend

Olympic Trials Sunday - Tad Dennis
Canoeist Tad Dennis locks his sight on the next gate during the third day of the Olympic Team Trials for whitewater slalom at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte on April 27, 2008. Dennis made the US national team despite making costly mistakes that resulted in slow times on the second and third days of the three-day event.

Top US paddlers are all in Augsburg, Germany this weekend with one thing on their agendas--qualifying to go to Beijing in just over a month. The sport of whitewater slalom was one of the first to hold it's Olympic Team Trials this year, but in this sport only one four of the 11 boats that made the national team can go to the Olympic Games.

Whitewater slalom consists of four events; men's solo kayak (K1), women's solo kayak (K1W), men's solo decked canoe (C1), and men's tandem decked canoe (C2). This year women are finally allowed to compete in C1, but the event will not be contested at the Olympics until the 2012 London games.

The Olympic Team Trials for Whitewater Slalom were held April 25-27 at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC and selected the members of the US National team. The 2008 US team, with current points in parentheses, is:

Brett Heyl (30)
Scott Parsons (38)
Scott Mann (28)

Zuzana Vanha (30)
Heather Corrie (29)
Caroline Queen (28)

Jeff Larimer (30)
Benn Fraker (29)
Tad Dennis (28)

Austin Crane and Scott McCleskey (30)
Casey Eichfeld and Rick Powell (29)
(Only two teams qualified in C2)

Points are based on the results of three events: the 2007 World Championships in Brazil, the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, and the third World Cup event of 2008, which begins today and continues all weekend in Augsburg, Germany.

Parsons was the only paddler to earn points in Brazil, which gives him a slight lead over the competition. The rest of the paddlers earned points at the team trials, where 30 points went to the winner, 29 to second, 28 to third, and so forth. In Augsburg, 25 points will go to the winner, with the points decreasing in increments of three down to 20th place which receives only one point.

American paddlers will face some tough international competition, but with Olympic dreams at stake the hottest competition will be for those precious points. Of those on the national team, only Parsons and Heyl are former Olympians, both going in 2004 when two people from the US were allowed.

In all categories the competition is extremely close. One mistake on any of the three days in Augsburg could make the difference between dreams coming true and going home to start training for the 2012 games. Wish them luck!

View images of the athletes in action from the Olympic Team Trials here:

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