Smolen began his paddling career as a youth member of the local Nantahala Racing Club. At the age of 19, he has already been on the U.S. Canoe/Kayak National Slalom Team for two years running. Smolen won a gold medal at the early season race, the Glacier Breaker, which took place in the gorge in late February.
Smolen competes around the world and said the NOC sponsorship would help him maintain his strict whitewater regiment.
“(I am) very proud and grateful to have been chosen for the team,” Smolen said. “I have a long season ahead of me and this support will go towards my expenses from traveling to races.”