The next American phenom showed his hand in the preliminary round of the 2013 ICF Canoe World Slalom Championships in Prague. Michal Smolen, 20 years old tomorrow and competing in his first senior world championships, finished third in a stacked international field. The performance put the world on notice that American slalom racing has a strong new contender following the retirement of veteran Olympians Brett Heyl and Scott Parsons.
Smolen comes with an impressive sporting pedigree. Both his parents represented their native Poland in international competition. His mom starred in team handball, and his father Rafal was a champion slalom racer. Rafal moved the family to North Carolina 10 years ago to coach the Nantahala Racing Club. Smolen currently lives and trains in Charlotte, NC at the US National Whitewater Center, which is the U.S. Olympic training site. Read more about him and his sport on www.michalsmolen.com.
The question on everyone’s mind is whether the youngster will be able to repeat his strong performance when it matters–in Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s finals. Stay tuned.