DARTMOUTH -- Dartmouth paddler Connor Fitzpatrick has punched his ticket to the Olympic Games in Tokyo after a nail-biting qualifying race on Wednesday.

Fitzpatrick, 22, needed to win two races to make the Canadian Olympic canoe team. He won the first in British Columbia a month ago. However, Wednesday’s race was a close call.

“It was a really hard grind. The wind picked up in the last 250 metres and you kind of just have to put your foot down and put every last stroke into it and do what you can do,” says Fitzpatrick of the Senobe Aquatic Club in Dartmouth. “That was all I did and it was enough to get the job done.”

Three-tenths of a second was the was margin of victory, “which is very small in paddling,” Fitzpatrick said.

The win makes Fitzpatrick the first Olympian to come from the Senobe Aquatic Club.

It was also an emotional win for Fitzpatrick’s mother, Dennita Fitzpatrick.

“I walked the boardwalk and I cried. I don’t really know why, but it’s a big day and I’m really proud of him. Both my husband and I are very, very proud,” Dennita Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick grew up splitting his time between paddling and hockey, but made the switch full time to the water in his early teens.

“When he started high school, he made a decision that if he didn’t make the high school (hockey) team, he was going to focus all of his energy into paddling and start going south in the winter and all the things that they do,” says his mother.

It was during one of those trips to Florida that Fitzpatrick’s coaches started to take notice of his ability and potential.

“He really started chasing down some of the older guys and surprising them,” says Robert Baert, Fitzpatrick’s coach. “We were in the motorboat saying, ‘I think we might have something here’.”

Fitzpatrick says he grew up looking up to Canadian Olympic paddlers Steve Giles and Mark Oldershaw, and looks forward to becoming role model for younger paddlers now that he will be an Olympian.

“I’m always willing to give back and help and do whatever I can to give them tips, or help them get better at paddling, or even if they just want to be a better human or a better person,” Fitzpatrick says.

An attitude that makes him a success both on and off the water.

Fitzpatrick's next competition is the Canoe Sprint World Cup in Hungary in May.

The event is a tune-up for the Olympics where paddlers get to test their stroke against the best in the world before heading to Tokyo.

The Summer Games are slated to take place July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan.