Carrie Johnson is the United States' best hope for a kayaking medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“She has been the best (American) female kayaker of our generation,” said Shaun Caven, former British National coach and director and head coach of Canoe/Kayak at the OKC High Performance Center.
Johnson, 28, of Chula Vista, Calif., became an Olympian for the third time Friday by winning the women's 500-meter kayak race in the Olympic Trials on the Oklahoma River. The victory earns her the lone American spot in the race in the London Olympics.
It will be the final time Johnson will represent her country in the Olympics. She plans to quit the sport after London since she has been accepted into the veterinary school at the University of California-Davis.
“Everything in my life has been organized around paddling since 2001,” Johnson said. “At some point, I am going to have to get a job and move on with my life.”
Johnson burst on the national kayaking scene in 2004 when she won the Olympic Trials in Oakland, Calif. She was such an unknown at the time that the public address announcer didn't even know her name.
“It wasn't something I had expected,” she said of the victory that sent her to her first Olympics. “I was just there to get experience and maybe make the World Cup team. It just worked out a lot better than that.”
Johnson became a paddler literally by accident. Johnson quit gymnastics after breaking her arm and was looking for another sport when she joined the San Diego junior lifeguard program. It also had a canoe and kayak team.