Evy Leibfarth cruised through the first 11 gates of her semifinal run in the women’s canoe slalom competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday when her medal hopes suddenly began to take on water.
The 17-year-old Bryson City native incurred a 50-second penalty after her canoe rolled over in the rushing man-made rapids, causing her to miss a gate. The added time eliminated her from contention for a spot in the event finals.
Leibfarth, who also competed in the kayak slalom race earlier in the week, qualified for the semifinal with a strong sixth-place showing in the preliminary round and had a realistic chance of getting onto the podium in the first Olympic canoe slalom competition for women.
Even though that chance was lost when she missed the gate, Leibfarth continued battling and finished her run. She was one of six competitors to roll their canoes under difficult conditions created by unseasonably hot temperatures.
“You have got to keep going and you have still got to give it your all even if you know that the race is pretty much over for you,” Leibfarth said in a post-run interview with Reuters.
Australian Jessica Fox won the gold medal with Mallory Franklin of Great Britain and Andrea Herzog of Germany taking silver and bronze, respectively.
________________________________Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 14 14 10 38
China 15 7 9 31
ROC 8 11 9 28
Japan 15 4 6 25
Australia 8 2 10 20
NC State’s international contingent of swimmers continues to distinguish itself.
Thursday’s standouts were the duo of incoming freshman Noe Ponti and junior Nyls Korstanje, the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year. Both posted strong performances in preliminary heats of the men’s 100-meter butterfly to earn spots in Friday’s semifinals.
Ponti, swimming for Switzerland, finished second in his heat with a time of 51.24, barely missing his own national record. Korstanje, representing Netherlands, won his heat in a new Dutch record time of 51.34.
NCAA champion Sophie Hansson of Sweden barely missed qualifying for second final in Tokyo, finishing fourth in her semifinal and missing out on the top eight by two places in the women’s 100 butterfly in a time of 2:24.48.
Erika Brown, a graduate of Charlotte’s Hough High School, saw her hopes for a second medal of the Games disappear when she failed to qualify for the final in the women’s 100 freestyle.
Brown was actually fortunate just to get into Thursday’s race. She had to win a swimoff for the first alternate spot, then was added to the field after two other competitors were scratched. She won a bronze medal on the first night of the swimming competition as a member of the 4×100 freestyle relay.
North Carolina graduate and Charlotte resident Naya Tapper helped the U.S. women’s team get off to a winning start in the rugby sevens tournament, playing a key role in a 28-14 win against China. The Americans also won their matchup against host Japan later in the day.
Cyclist Alfredo Campo of Huntersville, competing for Ecuador, qualified for the semifinals in the BMX racing event by finishing fourth in his heat with 12 points.
Campo improved his time in each of his three runs to join a group of cyclists — which includes Americans Connor Fields and Corbin Sharrah — still in contention for medals.
Team USA Highlights
Sunisa Lee became the fifth straight American woman to claim the Olympic title in women’s all-around gymnastics, stepping into a starring role after heavily favored teammate Simone Biles pulled out of the competition. Lee edged Rebeca Andrade of Brazil in an entertaining and hotly contested final while Biles watched from the stands.
Lee’s total of 57.433 points was just enough to top Andrade. The Brazilian earned the first gymnastics all-around medal by a Latin American athlete but missed out on gold when she stepped out of bounds twice during her floor routine.
Caeleb Dressel claimed the first individual Olympic gold medal of his career. Dressel held off the defending 100 freestyle Olympic champion, Australia’s Kyle Chalmers, with a furious sprint to the wall. The winning time was an Olympic record of 47.02 seconds.
Bobby Finke captured gold in the debut of the men’s 800 freestyle event at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in a thrilling finish. Germany’s Florian Wellbrock grabbed the lead from silver medalist Georgio Paltrinieri of Italy on the final flip, with Finke lurking back in fourth. But the American turned on a dazzling burst of speed at the end of the 16-lap race, passing all three swimmers ahead of him to take the gold.
Although Fink is from Florida and swam collegiately for the Gators, he has a connection to North Carolina, since his sister Summer swam for NC State.
Katie Ledecky also staged a stirring comeback, making up considerable ground on the final leg of the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay to secure the silver medal for the U.S. China won the gold medal in world record time.
Kayle Browning won America’s third shotgun medal of the Tokyo Olympics when she took silver behind Slovakia’s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova, who set an Olympic record in women’s trap. Rehak Stefecekova hit 43 of 50 targets on a breezy day at Asaka Shooting Range.
Friday marks the start of the Olympic track and field meet, with former UNC sprinter Kenny Selmon and Tar Heels volunteer assistant coach Danny Kendziera on tap to run in the men’s 400 meter hurdles.
Among the other events involving athletes with state ties are the BMX final, where Campos goes for gold, Durham Bulls pitcher Joe Ryan gets the start on the mound in the U.S. baseball team’s opener against Israel, and the women’s 3-meter spring board diving event, where UNC’s Aranza Vazquez competes for Mexico.
The Associated Press contributed to this story