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Duo from Durango are ready to take the stage in Tokyo

Durango's Zach Lokken is as prepared as he could be for the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, where he will compete in slalom canoe. (Courtesy of Zach Lokken)
Zachary Lokken, Canoe Slalom

The 27-year-old Lokken from Durango earned the American men’s spot for the 2021 Games. He won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on April 14 in North Carolina, and then he was the lone American to advance to the finals at the International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Cup on June 12 in Prague, Czech Republic. That clinched his Olympic qualification for the first time in his career.

The win at the Olympic Trials gave Lokken, 2012 graduate of Durango High School, three points toward qualification. But many more points were at stake at the World Cup in Prague. He advanced through the bracket to make the final and finish eighth, 7.63 seconds behind winner Lukas Rohan of the Czech Republic.

During the heats, U.S. competitor Casey Eichfeld, a 31-year-old from Pennsylvania, was unable to advance to the semifinals.

Because of Eichfeld’s elimination, Lokken went into the final knowing he had done enough to get to Tokyo. He would finish second in an impressive semifinals, 1.89 behind Poland’s Kacper Sztuba and ahead of eventual second-place finisher Adam Burgess of Great Britain.

Lokken had finished behind Eichfeld in qualification for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. It would be the third Olympics Eichfeld would qualify for, while Lokken was forced to look ahead to the next cycle ahead of the 2020 Games. With the goal achieved, he savored every moment of his final run at Prague.

In slalom canoe, racers handle whitewater through a course lined with 25 gates to navigate between. Missed gates are a time penalty, with penalties ranging anywhere from two to 50 seconds. Lokken will travel July 6 to Tokyo to begin preparation on the Olympic course, which he first got to preview in 2019. He hopes the weeks leading up to competition July 25-26 will help him establish familiarity during his pursuit to make the finals.

This year, there is no two-man slalom canoe competition, only one-man canoe. Lokken will be one of 21 men from 21 different nations with only the top seven to advance to the finals.

Durango's Christopher Blevins will compete Monday in the Men’s mountain bike race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. (Courtesy of USA Cycling)

Competition times

Mountain Biking

Rider’s Confirmation: 9 a.m. Sunday EDT

Men’s Cross-country: 11 a.m. Monday EDT

Men’s Cross-country Victory Ceremony: 12:45 p.m. Monday EDT

Canoeing

Men’s Canoe Heats 1st and 2nd Run: 9 a.m. Sunday EDT

Men’s Canoe Heats 2nd Run: 10:57 a.m. Sunday EDT

Men’s Canoe Semifinal: 10 a.m. Monday EDT

Men’s Canoe Final: 11:45, a.m. Monday EDT

Men’s Canoe Victory Ceremony: 12:32 p.m. Monday EDT

Christopher Blevins, Mountain Biking

The 23-year-old Blevins, a cross-country mountain biker from Durango, will race early Monday outside Tokyo at the Summer Olympic Games. It will be the sixth consecutive Olympics in which a men’s rider from Durango will compete.

Blevins took to BMX racing by age 5 and made a name for himself in a hurry. Large national championship trophies started coming home with him after all the big races from the ages of 5 to 12. He first thought of going to the Olympics when he was 10 and envisioned it would be for BMX.

With only 30 riders in the field for the mountain bike Olympics, the race is much smaller than a normal World Cup event Blevins would ordinarily see. Starting from the second or third row, Blevins said he hopes to try to make a move to the front of the race.

While a top-10 finish would be a major success this year, Blevins said he hopes to target a medal at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. He is only in his first year as an elite men’s rider after moving up from the under-23 ranks, where he won two silver medals in three years at the world championships. The learning curve at the elite level is steep, but Blevins has already made large strides during this year’s races in Europe and is poised to show what he can do when the world tunes in July 26. He said he has never been in better shape than he is going into Tokyo.

“I’ve had this narrow but deep pursuit of these Olympics for more than four years. I have devoted all of my energy toward this one track,” Blevins said. “But there have been so many experiences, emotions and people who have made it all worth it. Regardless of how the race goes, this has been an incredible four years with so much to look back on.”

TV highlights

All times are Eastern time. Schedule is subject to change and/or blackouts.

CYCLING (MEN'S)

9 a.m. Saturday, Road race, NBC

CYCLING (WOMEN'S)

12 a.m. Sunday, Road Race, NBC

ROWING

9 a.m. Saturday, Qualifying Heats, NBC

SKATEBOARDING (MEN'S)

8 p.m. Saturday, Street Preliminary, USA

11:25 p.m. Saturday, Street Final, USA

12 a.m. Sunday, Street Final, USA

SOCCER (MEN'S)

4:30 a.m. Sunday, Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, NBCSN

6:30 a.m. Sunday, Australia vs. Spain AND Japan vs. Mexico, NBCSN

SOCCER (WOMEN'S)

4:30 a.m. Sunday, Sweden vs. Australia, NBCSN

7:30 a.m. Sunday, U.S. vs. New Zealand, NBCSN

CANOEING

4 a.m. Monday, USA — Men's Canoeing (Whitewater Slalom Final)

CYCLING (WOMEN'S)

8 a.m. Saturday, Road Race, NBC

DIVING

2:10 a.m. Monday, Men's Diving (Synchronized Platform), USA

MOUNTAIN BIKING

4 a.m. Monday, Men's Mountain Biking, CNBC

SOCCER (MEN'S)

4:30 a.m. Sunday, Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, NBCSN

6:30 a.m. Sunday, Australia vs. Spain and Japan vs. Mexico, NBCSN