Casey Eichfeld is the only man to represent the United States in the Olympics in both singles and doubles canoes.
When the 2016 Olympics arrive, Eichfeld would like to become the first to do both events in the same Olympic Games.
“With rule changes, allowing us multiple disciplines, I was actually striving for racing two classes in this last Olympics in London,” Eichfeld said of the 2012 Games where he placed 14th in singles. “In 2016, I’m striving every day, … each time, I try to get ready … I’d love to be the first United States athlete in our sport to compete in two classes and ideally do well in both.”
Eichfeld, who lived in Drums from the time he was a 6-year-old in 1995 until moving away for training reasons in 2008, is not content with having competed in two Olympics or even the pursuit of a third appearance.
“I’m probably shooting for a five-time in a lifetime experience,” Eichfeld said in a telephone interview earlier this year while competing in Australia. “Ultimately my goal is to continue going. I don’t see retirement at any time in my new future.”
Eichfeld, 24, made the 2008 Olympics as an 18-year-old, and finished 11th in doubles canoe slalom with Rick Powell.
“In the first Olympics I was training primarily in the two-man, the C-2,” Eichfeld said. “We weren’t allowed to try to go in two disciplines.”
Eichfeld worked with a new partner, Devin McEwan, in the recently completed World Cup.
After the five World Cup stops, Eichfeld finished in 15th in the C1 standings out 92 competitors who scored points and placed 25th with McEwan out of 48 C2 teams that scored.
Only Fabien Lefebre, who was 10th, placed higher in singles among U.S. athletes.
Eichfeld and McEwan, who is from Connecticut, formed the top U.S. C2 team.
“I’ve actually known him most of my life,” Eichfeld said. “We kind of grew up in the same family-friendly races. We traveled into the New England area. He’s a bit older than I am. He was kind of like the older kid I was chasing when I was younger.”
Eichfeld, who was born in Harrisburg, started that chase young.
As an 11-year-old, he was listed in the Sports Illustrated for Kids October, 2000 Olympic issue as a future “Olympic Hotshot.” By the time he was 14, Eichfeld was competing with the U.S. National Junior Team in Europe.
Unable to combine a budding international athletic career with studies in the Hazleton Area School District, Eichfeld completed high school through Keystone High School, a charter school.
“It gave me the flexibility to travel and train and race, the way I needed to,” Eichfeld said. “ … It gave me an opportunity to finish a little earlier than the usual four years, but it took a little longer than that mostly because when you give a kid control over school while he’s traveling the world, it sort of took a back seat.
“I’m glad we did it that way, because if I had been strapped to the classroom through the ordinary four years of high school, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am.”
Eichfeld now lives in Charlotte, N.C. because the Whitewater training facility there “is kind of the optimum place for me to be at this time.”
And, Eichfeld is not content with where he is. The two-time Olympian still has the motivation to train to reach new accomplishments.
Eichfeld does cross training – lifting, running and other exercises – like many athletes.
“You have the training pretty much like every sport has to do, just general endurance to make sure you can put out a lot of energy and power over an extended period of time,” Eichfeld said. “ … We do have in-boat endurance that we do on flat water. We have to generate all of our own momentum with our power. So, we have a variety of endurance workouts inside the boat.”
Fine-tuning technical ability and whitewater is also important.
“We race and compete on a field that’s constantly moving and changing,” Eichfeld said. “It’s never identical. It’s never the same. You race on so many different courses which are nothing alike. None of them is like the other, so we have this encyclopedia in our mind of how water moves and reacts so that while we may not know a new course, we can show up to any course and feel like we already know how the water will move and how we need to paddle on it.
“That just comes from lots and lots and lots of time on whitewater, just learning how water reacts and how the boat reacts. That’s a huge point, just all of this experience and it takes years. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“You have these peaks where something shoots up and you’re seconds faster than you were. Then, it plateaus again. As you grow, those peaks become farther and farther apart and smaller.”
The peaks may take longer to reach that has not discouraged Eichfeld from continuing the chase.