Canada's Katie Vincent qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in debuting canoe event

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Canada's Katie Vincent, right, seen above in 2013, earned a spot on the coutnry's sprint canoe team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics on Friday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada's Katie Vincent, right, seen above in 2013, earned a spot on the coutnry's sprint canoe team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics on Friday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada's Katie Vincent is headed to Tokyo.

The 25-year-old canoe sprint athlete officially qualified for the 2021 Olympics on Friday after winning a race-off in the 200-metre C-1 event in Burnaby, B.C., against fellow Canadian Laurence Vincent Lapointe.

The pair split two races on Thursday, setting up the winner-take-all showdown in which Vincent was victorious by 0.32 seconds. After taking the first race by less than a second, Vincent Lapointe fell off her boat during the second race while trying to overtake Vincent.

Women's canoe will be making its Olympic debut in Tokyo as canoe/kayak becomes gender equal with six events each (four kayak, two canoe) for men and women.

The win was extra special for Vincent since it came on her birthday.

"It's hard to put into words [how I'm feeling] right now," Vincent said. "I can't imagine a better birthday present than this. It was a fight right until the end and a positive takeaway for our team that we have such a strong field of female paddlers."

Vincent Lapointe has taken seven world titles in the 200 over the past decade, seemingly priming her to enter Tokyo as a gold-medal favourite in the event.

But with only one qualifying spot available to Canada in the discipline, Vincent Lapointe is left to take her shot in only the 500 doubles event she competes in alongside Vincent.

"Four years ago, we had no group to train with and look at us now. We can take pride in the team that we've built and I look forward to getting in the boat with Laurence to race the C2 500 event tomorrow," Vincent said.

Canoe Kayak Canada said it was working with the International Canoe Federation to secure an extra qualifying spot in each event due to "extenuating circumstances dating back to the 2019 world championships."

Vincent, who lives in Halifax but was born in Mississauga, Ont., has competed for the senior national team since 2012.

Canada's kayak K4 500 team (Alanna Bray-Lougheed, Andréanne Langlois, Michelle Russell and Madeline Schmidt) also qualified for Tokyo with back-to-back final wins at trials on Friday.

"We have trained in every weather condition — hail, snow, giant waves," Schmidt said. "It has definitely brought us closer together as a team."

Andrea Nelson earned a spot in Tokyo in Para Canoe while Erica Scarff (KL3 200), Gabriel Ferron-Bouius (KL3 200) and Stefan Samoila (KL2) all won finals but still must meet criteria for nomination to Team Canada for their Paralympic berths.

Canadian Olympic and Paralympic canoe/kayak qualifying continues throughout the weekend.