Much of America spent Aug. 5-21 with eyes glued to a television, cheering on athletes from all corners of the country as they represented the red, white and blue in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
SEE ALSO: A conversation with Michal
For the community of paddlers whose nucleus is the Nantahala Outdoor Center, one Olympic dream demanded especially rapt attention — that of 23-year-old kayaker Michal Smolen, a whitewater slalom favorite who cut his teeth on the waters of the Nantahala River. William Irving, president of NOC, well remembers his first experiences watching Michal paddle. At the time, Irving was the high performance director for USA Canoe/Kayak and Smolen’s father Rafal was the newly hired national team coach.