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Lokken looks to make splash at first Olympics

27-year-old trains at U.S. National Whitewater Center

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Zach Lokken has been in Tokyo for weeks training on their manmade whitewater river where he'll compete in slalom canoe at the Olympics.

"I really like the course. I really think I can do well," Lokken said. "During (pre-Olympic competition) I did really good runs. I feel really confident on that course."

Lokken was part of the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

"There's just so much that goes into it so for it," he said, "to finally fall into place the way it did it was just an amazing feeling."

Since 2012, the now 27-year-old Lokken has been spending hours upon hours at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, shredding the rapids and sometimes waiting for rafts full of tourists.

"It's just a really good facility," he said.

Lokken is originally from Durango, Colorado, and calls the beautiful Animas River his home.

"It gets just huge whitewater, and I was paddling at such a young age on huge whitewater," he said. "That feeling of competing, I was really competitive. I still am obviously."

This will be Lokken's first Olympics -- in 2016 he was so close but was beat out by friend and training partner, Casey Eichfeld.

"It was really hard to lose," Lokken said. "I was disappointed for myself but really happy for Casey."

Now, he can be happy for himself. Because Zach Lokken is an Olympian.

"It just means a lot to me that I'm able to be at that level," Lokken said.

He used a strong performance at the U.S. Team Trials at the Whitewater in April, coupled with a big finish in Europe in July, to qualify.

"Just to be going to the Olympics is a life-long dream," he said. "It really justifies all my years of hard work."

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