Evy Leibfarth photographed at a recent Team USA Media Summit in New York City. | Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As the Paris Summer Olympics draw closer, things are heating up for Team USA on the water.

Evy Leibfarth, 20, one of the historic class of the Olympics who in 2021 made up almost 186 out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo, will be returning to the Games this summer.

After being part of the inaugural class competing in women’s slalom canoeing — as well as the youngest woman to do so — Leibfarth is again setting new records in her sport, this year before the Games have even started.

With her qualification last week, she has made history by becoming the first U.S. woman to qualify for an Olympics in three different canoe and kayak events.

“It’s a catalyst for me to want to get a medal, not just for myself, but for the sport in the U.S.,” Leibfarth said in a profile with Red Bull.

“A lot of people don’t know about kayaking. Every four years, we have the Olympics. That’s the stage to show people and be able to have kids watch it and be like, ‘Oh my God, I want to go to the Olympics someday.’ I really want to be able to do that for my sport.”

A Pan-American champion as well as an U-23 World Champion, by age 14, she was already the top-ranked female kayaker in the country, and by 2019 she became the youngest paddler to clinch a World Cup medal with her third-place finish in canoe at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Slovenia.

Evy Leibfarth competes in the women’s kayak during the 2024 Olympic Team Trials at the Riversport Whitewater Center in Oklahoma City on April 26. | Sarah Phipps / The Oklahoman / USA Today Network

In addition to repping the red, white and blue of Team USA, Leibfarth will also be proudly competing for Team LGBTQ, identifying as bisexual.

In a recent profile for Teen Vogue, she recounts that, growing up in North Carolina, the first person she came out to no longer wanted to be friends with her, and that this experience pushed her back in the closet for a time.

In spite of the fear that being out would add further stress to the already high-pressure world of professional sport, Leibfarth eventually grew to be more open about her sexuality, thanks to the visibility of other LGBTQ athletes.

“There were a couple of queer paddlers who really inspired me and showed [me] that [your sexuality] has nothing to do with your athletic performance, but it’s really great to be in a space where you feel accepted,” she said.

“Just seeing other really successful people who are queer and knowing that it doesn’t make any difference is so great to see and just really reassuring, especially as a young woman in sports.”

Getting ready to take the biggest stage in her sport in Paris, she now hopes to inspire others in the same way she was empowered to embrace her own identity and make canoeing more inclusive to LGBTQ paddlers.

“There’s so much stress around sports, just being able to not worry about who I am feels so powerful,” she says.

“I hope that my career will inspire others to be very authentically themselves.”

You can follow Evy Leibfarth on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.