Michal Smolen

Michal Smolen Hiko Team Rider

DOB: September 13th, 1993
Natural habitat: Canoe Slalom (K1) 
Nationality: USA
Career Highlights:
+ 2nd place Word Cup Ivrea 2017
+12th place Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro, 2016
+3rd place World Championship London 2015
+1st place Pan American Games Minden 2015
+1st place World Championships U23 Penrith 2014
Where and when did you start paddling?
"The first experience was quite scary for me. I was 9 years old and my dad took me on an easy section of the Nantahala river in North Carolina. I was super excited to paddle by myself for the first time! What was funny is that as soon as I started paddling in the moving water I turned around and wanted to get out but my dad told me I had to keep going. I wasn’t so excited anymore and it took me a couple years before I got enough courage to start paddling slalom."
What is your favorite course?
"It’s between London and Penrith. Yes, both are places where I had some good results but I just really like big features on these courses."
Who has influenced you the most in kayaking?
"That person would have to be my father. He’s been coaching me since the very beginning and there’s no one else that knows me better when I’m out there on the water. "
What was your best experience in kayaking?
"My best experience was probably in 2015 when I made my first podium at the World Championships. My most my enjoyable experience kayaking, though, was probably in 2016 when I first traveled to New Zealand and went paddling on some of the most incredible rivers in the world."
What is the best and worst part of training?
"The best part of training for me is feeling the excitement of going fast. The more fast you go the more fun it gets and I’m always trying to push the limits of what’s possible for me. The worst part is probably pushing through the bad sessions. Sometimes you just don’t feel like you’re there but you still have to stay focused and remind yourself that not every session is gonna feel great."
How is like to be professional canoe slalom athlete in the USA where it's not that popular sport?
"It’s quite brutal actually. Unless you have sponsors or really good results (every year), expect to spend your own money on kayaking."
How is it like to date a kayaker?
"It makes life really easy."
What are your goals and plans for the future?
"The main project right now is to prepare myself for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. There are other goals like returning to the podium at the World Championships and making more finals at the World Cups but anyways those are just performance goals designed to keep me focused. The one very important thing I’ve been working on for a while is trying to figure out what’s the most enjoyable aspect of slalom for me and how to remain positive and excited despite facing challenges along the way."
What do you like to do when you are not in a kayak?
"One of the coolest thing about our sport is that it takes you to some of the most amazing places on this planet. Exploring what these places have to offer is always something I’m excited about. I also like sleeping."
Did you ever piss into your kayak?
"Good question. On purpose or by accident?"
Who is the best kayaker in the world?
"My envy is for Dane Jackson. Not quite sure how he walks around with those big things between his legs."