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Enthused by win at US Nationals, Gainesville's Stanton Collins still vying for spot on US Olympic Team
Stanton Collins
Gainesville's Stanton Collins trains in Florida in 2020. Photo by Stephanie Schlitz

Stanton Collins is in the middle of the most intense waiting game of his life. 

The 26-year-old from Gainesville is trying to go about his day-to-day life, while waiting to hear if he’s earned a spot to represent the United States in the sprint canoe/kayak in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

Collins, who is a North Hall High graduate, crossed a big hurdle on March 20 when he placed first in the one-man kayak, 200-meter race at the U.S. National Team Trials in Sarasota, Florida. 

However, that’s just one part of an unbelievably complex equation to make the Olympic Team, due to the fact that there wasn’t a Pan American Championship in 2020 or 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Coaches at the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, where Collins has trained since he was 13, are still completely unsure if Collins’ body of work will be enough to go to the Olympics, which could lead to mounting frustration for everyone in his corner. 

Even with the uncertainly, right now, Collins is going to keep an optimistic attitude, knowing he’s going to be in control of what he can do and leave the subjective nature of the selection process to those in charge with the International Olympic Committee. 

Over the past decade, Collins has crisscrossed the globe competing. 

Now, he’s waiting for the biggest news of his life.

“It will mean so much if I make it to the Olympics,” said Collins. “It will show me that all the hard work over the years has paid off.”

Even if he doesn’t make it to the Olympics, Collins has a life away from the kayak. 

He’s set to be married to his fiancée Ana Eguiluz on September 11. 

Collins, a Georgia Tech graduate with a business degree in economics, works as a business consultant with Northeast Georgia Medical Center. 

However, paddling has been such a big part of Collins’ life since he was a teenager. 

And nothing would mean more than to represent our country in the Summer Games.

Collins could get the call in the coming days, weeks or months that he will be on the U.S. Olympic Team. 

In May, Collins plans to travel to Europe for a pair of World Cup events — the first in Hungary, the latter in Russia. A win in either would likely lock it up for Collins, LCKC executive director Jim O’Dell said. 

The Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club has a number of other athletes in contention to make it to the Summer Games. 

However, the win at the National Team Trials put Collins in a good position, even though the selection process is convoluted for determining which athletes will travel to Japan. 

“We’re all very proud of Stanton,” O’Dell said. “He was a fuzzy-headed kid, and it has been so neat to see him stick with it.”

Despite a slow start in his race at nationals — his first race in 19 months — Collins finished a fraction of a second ahead of Gainesville’s Owen Farely-Klacik.

Collins claims to be notoriously slow in his start, but he uses the advantage with his superior upper-body strength to mitigate the damage. 

“I was a little disappointed to not start fast in the race,” Collins said. “But the finish line is the only line that counts.”

He said nerves also played into racing for the first time after such a long layoff. 

Collins credits his fiancée, family and friends for helping him stay calm and collected for the 30 seconds of racing. 

“I hadn’t had a lot of sleep before the Team Trials,” Collins said. “I was dealing with anxiety, just trying to stay calm.”

Once it was finished, Collins immediately went to find his soon-to-be wife, who due to coronavirus restrictions, was not able to be at the finish line. 

They immediately went to a nearby beach to relax and enjoy the moment, knowing Collins was one step closer to making it to the Olympics. 

Collins first contended for a spot to the Olympics in 2016 in the K2, 1,000-meter race with his LCKC teammate Chris Miller. The pair had success, but they came up short up making the 2016 Rio Summer Games. 

After that, Miller retired from paddling. 

Collins took some time away to think about what he wanted to do. 

He had already taken two years away from college to focus on trying to make the Olympics. 

Even with some uncertainty, Collins still felt the pull to give it another try. 

Now, he’s got a chance of making that dream come true with a spot in the year-delayed 2020 Summer Games. 

And, if that doesn’t pan out, it’s just three years before the next Summer Olympics in Paris. 

However, the time commitment doesn’t get any easier. 

There are early morning workouts, professional responsibilities and planning a wedding with the love of his life. 

For Collins, it’s all worth it.

“It’s stressful but fun,” Collins said.

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