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River sports notebook: Greatest American female Kayaker is from Oklahoma

The greatest American female sprint kayaker in the history of the sport is from Oklahoma. Marcia Smoke from Oklahoma City is only one of two American women to medal in kayaking in the Olympics.
by Ed Godfrey Published: April 20, 2012
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Dylan Puckett, who finished fifth in the consolation finals of the men's 200 meters Friday, became the first Oklahoma kayaker to compete in an Olympic trial since the Boathouse District was built on the Oklahoma River.

However, the 16-year-old from Jones is not the first Oklahoman to paddle in an Olympic trial. In fact, the greatest American female sprint kayaker in the history of the sport is from Oklahoma.

Marcia Smoke from Oklahoma City is only one of two American women to medal in kayaking in the Olympics.

A graduate of Casady High School and Michigan State University, Smoke won a bronze medal in the 1964 Olympics in the women's 500 meters and was a multi-time national champion in the sport. She competed in two more Olympics, narrowly missing another bronze in 1968 by finishing fourth.

Smoke, 70, now lives in Buchanan, Mich., but she and her son, Jeff, who represented the United States in kayaking in the 2004 Olympics, were in Oklahoma City on Friday to watch the Olympic trials on the Oklahoma River.

PATH TO OLYMPICS STARTS ON OKLAHOMA RIVER

Puckett's participation in the U.S. Olympic Trial is an example for other landlocked Oklahomans who might have Olympic aspirations in paddling, said Shaun Caven, former British National coach and director of Canoe/Kayak at the OKC High Performance Center.

Puckett started at age 12 in the OKC RIVERSPORT in the sprint canoe/kayak youth program with no previous experience and became a two-time junior national champion.

“It proves if you build a facility and employ a couple of coaches who half know what they are doing, there is no reason you can't be champions,” Caven said.

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