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Taiwanese canoeist sets Olympic milestone

2024-04-22
Focus Taiwan
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Lai Kuan-chieh (front) at the Hangzhou Asian Games. File photo courtesy of Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee
Lai Kuan-chieh (front) at the Hangzhou Asian Games. File photo courtesy of Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Lai Kuan-chieh (賴冠傑) has become the first Taiwanese canoeist to qualify for the Olympic Games after winning a silver medal at the 2024 Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in Tokyo on Sunday.

Lai finished in a time of 4 minutes, 11.577 seconds in the men's C-1 1000 meter canoe sprint final, edging Miao Feilong of China by 0.297 seconds for the final Olympic qualification spot.

Mohammad Nabi Rezaei of Iran won the race to also qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Games in a time of 4:10.98.

Lai's finish was not a complete surprise given that he was the first canoeist from Taiwan to bag a gold medal at the Asian Games, in 2023 in the same event.

But his coach Yu Chih-wei (游志偉) told CNA that Lai was only at about 80 percent of his best in Sunday's final because of how nervous and stressed he was.

In the end, however, everyone was happy that he could make it into the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"There was only one shot with no second chances. He worked very hard despite the ups and downs in the process and kept moving forward," Yu said.

Yu believed that Lai's milestone as the first canoeist from Taiwan to qualify for an Olympics was meaningful for the country's sports history because "he fought for it himself rather than getting in as an alternate."

Lai went through altitude training in the Czech Republic and Colombia in February to prepare for the championships, where he was able to interact with local athletes, improve his cardio conditioning and gain experience for intense competitions, Yu said.

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