Jazmyne Denhollander's clean, fast run through the rapids yielded Pan American Games gold by a boat tip.
With just three hundredths of a second separating first from third in the women's kayak slalom, the Canadian captured the gold medal in Minden, Ont.
"Absolutely, I felt myself capable of this," Denhollander said.
"There was a lot of pressure because this was the Olympic qualifier to get a spot for Canada and I was also the Pan Am boat, so I did want a medal really bad. I'm so proud of myself."
Denhollander was the third-fastest qualifier in the semifinal. The women's final was delayed an hour by a late afternoon thunderstorm that poured buckets on the Minden Wildwater Preserve northeast of Toronto.
Denhollander had to manage her mind and body for 60 minutes before putting her boat back in the water.
"I started to get cold and I was a little bit hungry," she said. "I just tried to rehydrate, get some fluid in me and try to keep warm. It was tough. I'm very proud of myself for coming back from that.
"I was thinking about my race plan. I was thinking about where I could make up time and where to take the most valuable risks in my run. I thought I might as well give it all that I've got because I wouldn't have a second chance."
The 21-year-old from Chilliwack, B.C., posted a time of 97.92 seconds with no penalty seconds added for touching or missing a gate.
Ana Satila of Brazil and Ashley Nee of the U.S., also ran the course penalty-free, so the gold came down to speed. Satila was .02 seconds back of Denhollander for silver and Nee .03 slower for bronze.
"When they're that close, it makes the best races because you really had to fight to the very, very last second," Denhollander said.
She posted the fastest time at the second interval. Once Denhollander navigated a tricky feature on the course called Earl's Hole, she felt she could attack the course.
"I knew if I got that, it was pretty much straightforward from there on," she said. "I could hear the cheers from my teammates and the crowd. It was amazing to get that little burst of power knowing people were watching me and cheering me on."
The clouds cleared and the sun appeared for Denhollander's medal ceremony.
"It was very beautiful," Denhollander.
Denhollander followed her two older brothers into her sport and began whitewater kayaking at age 10 in an elementary school program in Chilliwack. She grew up paddling the Tamahi Rapids on the Chilliwack River.
Her triumph capped a four-medal day for the national whitewater team.
With canoe slalom making its debut at these Pan Am Games, Cameron Smedley of Dunrobin, Ont., took silver in men's C1 and Calgarian Haley Daniels claimed bronze in women's C1.
Edmonton's Ben Hayward earned bronze in men's kayak. He and Smedley were eliminated in the C2 men's semifinal.
Canoe racers use a single-bladed paddle and sit in an open boat, while kayakers use a double-bladed paddle and sit in a boat with a closed cockpit.