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2010 Travel & Training Recipients

Rebecca Sorensen, 2010 Travel and Training recipient, in action during the Women's FIBT Skeleton World Cup round 7 at the Olympic Bobrun on January 15, 2010 in St Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Rebecca Sorensen, 2010 Travel and Training recipient, in action during the Women’s FIBT Skeleton World Cup round 7 at the Olympic Bobrun on January 15, 2010 in St Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

List of 2010 recipients, by state:


Emily Vinson, Chula Vista, Sprint Kayak
Emily Vinson is currently a top-ranked member of the USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Team. She got her start paddling with the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in Middle School and has been involved ever since. She went to her first international race in Germany when she was only 14. Vinson has spent the last 10 years paddling and has served on many USA teams throughout the past seven years. In 2010, she was in the top women’s k-4 boat which participated in the World Championships. Prior to receiving this Travel & Training grant, the support of her family has allowed her to continue paddling and begin training for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Dagny Knutson, Fullerton, Swimming
Dagny Knutson has been a member of USA Swimming for two years. She has represented the US internationally on numerous occasions both as a National Youth Team Member and as a National Team Member. Knutson recently qualified for the 2011 World Championship Team where she aims to win gold in the 4 x 200 free relay. She recently moved to Southern California from North Dakota to train and pursue a college degree, and her goals are to represent the US at the 2012 Olympic Games and win gold in the 200 free and 4 x 200 free relay. Knutson hopes to repeat this at the 2016 Olympic Games as well.

Amy Haapanen, Manteca, Track and Field – Hammer Throw
Following a successful track and field career at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Amy Haapanen continues to be a nationally-ranked athlete in the hammer throw event. For 2010, she ranked 6th in the US and 71st in the world in the women’s hammer throw following a successful year of competition, placing 1st at the US Club Championships, 1st at the US West Region Championships and 14th at the US National Championships. Her goal is to throw more than 70 meters and make the 2016 Olympic team.

US National Water Polo Team, Orinda, Water Polo
Since the addition of women’s water polo to the 2000 Olympic Games, the US National Team has proven that it is a top competitor in the sport. In addition to setting many records, the US Team is the only country to medal in women’s water polo in all three Olympic Games since the sport was added (silver in 2000 and 2008, bronze in 2004). In addition, the US is the only nation to sweep all major women’s water polo Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur Championships in consecutive years (2009 and 2010). The US Women’s Water Polo Team has their sights set on achieving their first gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Katie Davis, Sacramento, Judo
Katie Davis, been blind since birth, began participating in judo only seven years ago through the encouragement of a visually impaired friend who competed in judo. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Davis qualified for her first world team. Having competed at an elite level for less than two years, Davis became one of just four US women to earn a medal at the World Championships for the Blind in March 2010, where she received a silver medal in the 78kg division. Davis has already qualified for the 2011 World Championships in Turkey, where she hopes to improve her performance in the +70kg division. After the 2011 World Championships, Davis plans to shift focus to becoming a member of Team USA which will compete at the 2012 Paralympic Games.


Rachael Flatt, Colorado Springs, Figure Skating
Rachael Flatt had already skated on both the World and Olympic stage before reaching the young age of 18. She represented the U.S. at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and placed 7th. Currently, Flatt is ranked 10th by the International Skating Union. Having deferred her entry to Stanford University until fall of 2011, Flatt plans to spend the remainder of her time before college focusing on improving her ice choreography. She hopes that this extra time training will allow her to attain her future goals such as medaling at the World Championships and qualifying for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Tricia Downing, Denver, Triathlon/Duathlon/Handcycling
Tricia Downing has been a member of the US Paratriathlon National Team for several years and was the first female paraplegic to complete an iron-distance triathlon event. Downing serves as an inspiration and leader to many. In 2004, she was invited with the Paralympic Development Team to participate in the New York City Triathlon with six other athletes with disabilities to showcase their sport (now known as Paratriathlon). In 2010, more than 70 paratriathletes competed in the New York City Triathlon. Most recently, she earned gold at the London Paratriathlon World Championship in the Women’s Tri 1 category in July 2010. In December 2009, it was announced that Paratriathlon will be included in the 2016 Paralympic Games; Downing hopes to qualify for this team. Because she is aware that her story inspires others, she recently wrote a book called Cycle of Hope and often does public speaking engagements.

Rebecca Sorensen, Fort Collins, Skeleton
Rebecca Sorensen is entering her eighth consecutive season as a US National Skeleton Team member. Sorensen was the America’s Cup Champion in 2008, and finished third at the 2009 America’s Cup. In addition, she holds many world records on tracks in Lake Placid, N.Y., Park City, Utah and Igls, Austria. With her many sliding accomplishments, it is easy to see why Sorensen was an alternate for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games; however, Sorensen’s goal is to compete in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


Ishika Lay, Neptune Beach, Boxing
Ishika Lay has only trained as a boxer for five years, yet is already an Olympic hopeful. Lay has proven her ability to overcome adversity; in 2002 she was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident. Previously, she was a standout track and field athlete at Purdue University and qualified to compete in the heptathlon in the 2000 Olympic Games. Following her accident, Lay was told she would never walk again; however, she had other plans. She was able to fully recover and became a standout on Jacksonville’s professional women’s football team but has since found a passion for boxing. Lay was the 2008 Light Welterweight Ringside World Champion and the 2010 recipient of North Florida Golden Gloves in the 132 Lightweight Class. Since the announcement of the inclusion of boxing in the Olympic Games, Lay has her eyes set on gold in 2012.

Team Tunnicliffe, Plantation, Match Racing – Sailing
Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandermoer and Debbie Capozzi are the three athletes who form Team Tunnicliffe. Since their formation, Team Tunnifcliffe has steadily climbed to the top five of women’s world match racing rankings. The team has achieved many accomplishments throughout their racing history. In 2008, they were USA Women’s Match Racing National Champions; in 2009, they came in second in the same competition. In 2010 they were first in the Olympic Team Qualifier, the USSTAG Qualifier Grade 3. Team Tunnicliffe plans to win the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup and bring home a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Jennifer French, St. Petersburg, Paralympic Sailing
Jennifer French is the skipper of the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics; she actively races in the Sonar class, participating in both able-bodied and disabled competitions. French, a paraplegic, achieved a gold medal in the 2009 US Disabled Sailing Championship; this accomplishment is one of many other awards and recognitions that she has earned, including the Milan-Gruson award for top disabled female skipper (seven-time winner) and the Ed Sherman Award in 2008 for fastest Sonar. French aspires to represent the USA in the SKUD 18 at the 2012 Paralympic Games and bring home gold. Off the water, she currently serves as the Executive Director of Neurotech Network. Her story was featured in the documentary film, To Have Courage, and in the book, Shattered Nerves.


Elana Meyers, Douglasville, Bobsled
Elana Meyers has been competing as a bobsled athlete for three years. She saw her Olympic dreams realized at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games where she received a bronze medal for her role as brakeman in the US women’s two-man bobsled. Meyers now seeks to advance her bobsled career one step further by transitioning to the pilot position. Although she already has an Olympic medal, Meyers has extraordinary goals for the coming years including winning Junior World Championships, three World Championship medals and another Olympic medal, all in her new role as pilot.


Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr., Wheaton, Speedskating
Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. represented the US in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, placing fourth in the Team Pursuit and ninth in the 3000m event. She was the US 3000 National Champion in 2009-10 and the US Women’s National All-Around Champion in 2008-09. She plans on making the 2014 and 2018 Olympic teams and medaling. Her mother and coach, Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr. is a four-time US Olympian and former world record holder. Swider-Peltz, Jr., was recently voted to the Board of Directors of USSA by her peers.


Amy McGuire, Jamaica Plain, Cycling
Amy McGuire has only been training as a cyclist for four years, however, cycling is not her first experience as an athlete on the national and international stage. Prior to competing in cycling, McGuire was a USA Triathlon All-American in 2004-05 and earned spots to the World Championship teams in 2003 and 2005. McGuire continues to show steady improvements in her performances at national and international cycling races, and in the next few years, she plans to increase her international racing experience and her performances in national races with the ultimate goal of making the 2016 Olympic Games cycling team.


Team Pottinger, Eden Prairie, Curling
Team Pottinger consists of four talented curlers: Allison Pottinger, Nicole Joraanstad, Natalie Nicholson and Tabitha Peterson. Combined, the team has six World Championship medals, 23 World Championship appearances, 33 US Women’s National Championship Titles, four Junior World medals and seven Junior World appearances. Three members of the team competed in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The full team hopes to represent the US at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and bring home gold.


Ibtihaj Muhammad, Maplewood, Fencing
Ibtihaj Muhammad is fencing’s third-ranked national athlete and 26th ranked international senior individual athlete. She was a three-time All-American at Duke University before graduating in 2007 and is one of USA Fencing’s Olympic hopefuls for the 2012 Olympic Games. Muhammad started fencing at age 13. She fell in love with the sport and found it a perfect fit; she is Muslim and must compete fully covered in any sport she plays, and fencing required this for all athletes. Muhammad aspires to finish in at least the top eight at every World Cup, place top three at the World Championships, win at least one World Cup this year, win another National Championship and ultimately, make the 2012 Olympic Team.


Phaidra Knight, Bronx, Rugby
Phaidra Knight has played with the USA Rugby team since 1999. Recognized as one of the best players in the world in two different positions (prop and flanker), she has represented the US in three rugby world cups. Knight is regarded as a “legend” in the USA rugby community and is an ambassador for the game. Her goal is to change positions from flanker to scrumhalf and compete in her fourth and last World Cup in 2014. Knight is the current Director of Girl Development with Play Rugby USA, and is also a former Women’s Sports Foundation Advocacy Intern.

Alexis Page, New York, Rhythmic Gymnastics
With little international experience, Alexis Page played a significant role at the 2009 Junior Pan American Championships, where she helped the US win team gold; she also helped the US earn one of only two continental spots for the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Page will begin her first year competing in the senior division this year. In early 2011, she proved her potential, winning the senior all-around title at the Montreal Rhythmic Gymnastics International Invitational. Despite numerous logistical and financial burdens, she is an accomplished athlete with hopes to participate in the 2012 or 2016 Olympic Games.

Maria Michta, New York, Track and Field- Race Walking
This past year, Maria Michta swept both walk titles at the USATF Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She also posted the best time in the USA at the Olympic distance of 20 kilometers and beat both the USA’s 2004 & 2008 Olympians in the race walk in a head to head competition. Her goal is to earn a spot on the USA Track & Field team for the 2012 Olympic Games. Michta grew up on Long Island, was Valedictorian of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University’s class of 2008, and is currently working towards her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


Christina Gao, Cincinnati, Figure Skating
Christina Gao has proven that she may have what it takes to become an Olympic medalist. In 2009, at just 15 years old, Gao moved from her hometown in Kentucky to Toronto for more advanced figure skating training. This training has certainly paid off: at just 17 years old, she has medaled in five International Skating Union (ISU) events in the last 18 months and was named an alternate to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Gao hopes her increased training will help her qualify for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final as well as the Senior World Championship, and ultimatelycompete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


Christina Loukas, The Woodlands, Diving
Christina Loukas excelled in diving during her collegiate career at Indiana University (IU). Shortly after her four years at IU, she made the 2008 Olympic Team and placed ninth; however, Loukas was determined to continue improving her diving skills. A native of Chicago, she has since moved to Texas to continue training at the elite level in order to fulfill her goal of winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.


Alissa Johnson, Park City, Ski Jumping
When Alissa Johnson began ski jumping at the age of five, she had no idea that women were not allowed to ski jump in the Olympic Winter Games. In her 18 years of training, she has watched from the sidelines as her younger brother competed in ski jumping at two Olympic Winter Games. Johnson has competed in 108 Continental Cups, the highest level of competition for women, and is currently ranked 9th in overall Continental Cup standings in 2010. Johnson was also a member of the 2009 World Championship Team. She will continue to advocate for the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and if it is included, she hopes to represent the US in 2014.


Seattle Lady’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, Seattle, Wheelchair Basketball
The Seattle Lady’s Wheelchair Basketball Team is a new team within the Seattle Adaptive Sports (SAS) program. Previously, women and girls’ only opportunities to participate was to play on co-ed teams. This funding will allow the establishment of an all-female team within SAS and allow travel to regionals in order to qualify for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Women’s National Championship. SAS has a history of producing collegiate sports scholarship recipients and Paralympic hopefuls.

Pocock High Performance Team, Seattle, Rowing
The George Pocock Rowing Foundation is a non-profit organization which supports a training program for athletes vying for a spot on the US National Team. The Pocock High Performance Lightweight Women have many regional, national and international accomplishments. In its 11 years, the Pocock High Performance Team has placed numerous athletes on the national team. In 2011, Pocock High Performance Lightweight Women hope to have athletes representing the USA as part of the senior national team in as many of the three events (single, double and quad) as possible. The team will also focus on training future hopefuls for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

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