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2011 Travel & Training Recipients

In partnership with Gatorade, 12 individuals and two teams each received financial support ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 to help provide financial fuel to future champions in London and beyond

2011 Travel & Training recipient Maggie Meyer competes at the ConocoPhillips National Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex on August 6, 2010 in Irvine, California. (Photo by: Harry How)
2011 Travel & Training recipient Maggie Meyer competes at the ConocoPhillips National Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex on August 6, 2010 in Irvine, California. (Photo by: Harry How)

With the countdown to the 2012 Olympics Opening Cermonies one year away, today we announced that our Travel & Training Fund awarded $50,000 in grants to twelve individuals and two teams, representing twelve sports. In partnership with Gatorade®, the recipients each received financial support ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 to help cover coaching, specialized training, equipment, attire, or travel expenses. Many of the athletes have aspirations to compete at upcoming world competitions, Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Travel & Training Fund has a long legacy of helping to develop world class athletes. Since 1984, the fund has awarded more than 1,200 grants and $1.5 million to women athletes in a diverse array of sports. The 2011 recipients are:


Aretha Thurmond, Opelika, Track & Field
Three-time U.S. Olympian Aretha Thurmond is a fierce competitor in track and field and has consistently ranked among the top ten discus throwers in the world. She has faced and overcome many obstacles throughout the years, steadily adding to her long list of achievements. Extraordinarily, she placed fifth at the 2007 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, a mere two weeks after giving birth to her son, Devon Theopplis Thurmond. She also represented the U.S. at the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2009 World Championships. Thurmond has demonstrated that nothing will stand in the way of her athletic dreams. As a three-time Olympian, Thurmond has her sights set on a fourth appearance during the 2012 Olympic Games.


Natalie Vie, Phoenix, Fencing
Natalie Vie knows just how much personal sacrifice goes into being an elite athlete. Vie works two jobs, as a waitress and a fencing coach, to cover her travel expenses. Though working two jobs leaves limited availability to train, she has worked up some creative alternatives, such as carrying all of her trays with her left arm in the “en garde” position while waitressing. During this competition year, Vie has competed in all four USA Fencing Division 1 tournaments, finishing in the top ten in each. Despite having limited time and funds to train and travel, she is currently ranked ninth on the USA Fencing Rolling Women’s Epee Point standing. This grant will allow Vie to travel to the additional competitions required to give her a better chance to accumulate the points necessary to move up in the national rankings and make the 2012 National Women’s Epee team.


Natalie Wells, La Mesa, Archery
Natalie Wells was an all-around athlete in high school, but her true love was archery. A two-time Collegiate All-American for San Jose State University, She has been so consistent that she qualified and was invited to shoot in every U.S. Olympic Trials competition from 1988 to 2004. Unfortunately, two major back surgeries in 2005 and 2008 (due to degenerative disc disease) left Wells unable to compete in archery. Happily, her 2009introduction to Para-Archery has allowed her to continue excelling in the sport she loves. In the last 20 months as a Para-Archer, Wells has received three gold medals and one silver. Despite using 15-year old equipment, she has managed to achieve a ranking of fifth in the world in her class. This grant will allow Wells to purchase new equipment, as well as assisting with her travel and training costs while pursuing her goals of competing and medaling in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games.

Elizabeth Newell, Oakland, Cycling
Elizabeth Newell has been an avid athlete throughout her life; she played youth soccer and participated in track and field in high school and college. As an adult, Newell developed an interest in cycling as both a means of transportation and exercise. Soon she became interested in competitive cycling — but she certainly wasn’t an immediate superstar. Her first competitive race ended with a trip to the emergency room, and her second race ended with a broken wrist. However, as she gained experience, Newell found herself slowly moving up the rankings and onto podiums. In 2010, she earned a bronze medal at the U.S. Elite Track National Individual Pursuit and, despite suffering a mid-race crash, also achieved a 4th place finish in the Points Race. Additionally, Newell has had success in the NorCal road cycling scene, including ten wins and numerous top-10 finishes. Newell is hoping to win a national championship in the pursuit in 2011 and represent the U.S. in international competition in 2012 and eventually as a member of the 2016 Olympic Team.

New Balance Silicon Valley Club Team, Redwood City, Track & Field/Marathon
Athletes in the New Balance Silicon Valley Club Team range from graduate students to moms, nurses, engineers, and everything in between. The roster now features four women, Claudia Becque, Annie Bersagel, Rachel Booth, and Catha Mullen, who have each qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games Trials in the marathon, as well as other members who hope to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games Trials in track and field. The New Balance Silicon Valley Team has had many accomplishments since it first began four years ago, including winning team titles at the 2011 USA Cross Country Championship and at the 2010 USA Track & Field Pacific Association Cross Country Championship. Throughout the next five years, New Balance Silicon Valley hopes to qualify as many athletes as possible for the U.S. Olympic Games Marathon and Track & Field Team Trials, while working to provide opportunities for athletes to compete for U.S. international teams in track and field, cross country, and road racing.

Carrie Johnson, San Diego, Kayak
Carrie Johnson began competing in the sport of sprint kayaking in 1998 when she began training at a local club. In 2001, she began her international competitive career as part of the Jr. World Team. Johnson has proven her true competitive spirit despite obstacles; shortly after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2003, when she was told that she would probably not be able to continue paddling, she represented the U.S. at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Recently, at the 2010 Pan American Championships, Johnson won gold, silver and bronze. Her ultimate goal is to medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.


Kristin Hedstrom, Concord, Rowing
Kristin Hedstrom’s parents continually encouraged her to try new sports as a young child, but she struggled to find one that she truly loved. All of that changed when she entered high school and discovered the sport of rowing. Now, 11 years later, Hedstrom is an elite lightweight rower on the U.S. National Team with numerous top finishes on her long list of accomplishments. In 2009, Hedstrom became the youngest lightweight woman to make the Olympic class boat; the next year, in 2010, with the Senior National Team, she won silver at the Rowing World Championships and was a National Champion in the lightweight single and lightweight doubles. In 2011, Hedstrom will represent the U.S. at the 2011 World Championships. She hopes to make the “A” finals as well as qualifying and medaling at the 2012 Olympic Games.


Julia Clukey, Augusta, Luge
Julia Clukey participated in her first Olympic Winter Games in 2010, representing the U.S. in the sport of luge. Following the Olympic Winter Games, Clukey was struck by personal tragedy: her sister, Olivia, passed away leaving behind a one-year-old son. Clukey moved back to Maine from Lake Placid, N.Y. to be closer to her older sister, Amelia and actively assist in raising her nephew. The loss of a family member, and the resulting shift of her responsibilities, caused Clukey to struggle with the reality that training full-time might no longer be an option. She has previously competed in an Olympic Winter Games, the World Championships, multiple World Cup races and, just this past season, matched her best international result with a fifth place World Cup finish. Being awarded this grant will assist Clukey with her travel and training expenses so that she may continue her pursuit of a World Cup medal and a top six finish at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


Maggie Meyer, Roseville, Swimming
Maggie Meyer is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she completed a successful four-year career as an NCAA student-athlete in the sport of swimming. Her career at the University of Wisconsin was full of accomplishments, including being named 2011 NCAA 200-yard backstroke champion, achieving the first individual title in Wisconsin women’s swimming and diving program history and the fastest time in the country in 2010-11 (1:50.76). Meyer was also named the 2011 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year. A member of the 2009-2010 USA Swimming National Team, Meyer is currently training to compete in London at the 2012 Olympic Games.


USA Softball Women’s National Team, Oklahoma City, Softball
When softball was removed from the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Program, the National Team’s funding from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) also ceased. This lack of funding from the USOC has left the program with a $1 million gap in its budget. There is no doubt that the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) is an international force with an impressive competitive record, winning four World Cup titles and 18 gold medals throughout their performance history at the Olympic Games, World Championships and Pan American Championships. USA Women’s Softball also made its mark as one of the winningest teams with an extremely successful records of 36-5 in four Olympic Games; 116-10 at 12 World Championships; and 76-3 at eight Pan American Games. This grant will be used to fund the selection camps necessary to find the most talented athletes and set the bar for the WNT’s successful future.


Lauren Johnson, Beaverton, Track & Field
Lauren Johnson’s feat as the first female collegiate athlete to earn All-American honors in three separate sports (cross country, basketball and track and field) proved that she was an extremely talented athlete. Her accomplishments over the last two years as a full-time track and field athlete further demonstrated that she is a force to be reckoned with. Since graduating, Johnson has qualified for both the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships for each of the past two years. Most recently, at the 2011 University of Washington Invitational, she defeated world-class runner Shalane Flanagan and recorded the ninth fastest time in the world in the indoor mile. Johnson aims to finish in the top three at the 2011 U.S. Track & Field Championships and aspires to compete at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.


Stephanie Jallen, Harding, Skiing – Downhill
Stephanie Jallen was first introduced to skiing in 2005 at the age of 9. She found a passion for the sport during this first encounter, because it allowed her to live life to its fullest despite being born with the entire left side of her body underdeveloped due to a rare birth defect called CHILD (congenital hemidysplasia with ichthyosiform erythroderma and limb defects) syndrome. A mere three years after she was introduced to skiing, Jallen began competing on the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) race circuits during the 2008-2009 season. At the young age of 15, she is already a three-time Junior Alpine Champion (2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons), 2011-12 U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team member, and 2014 Paralympic hopeful.

Kayla Bashore Smedley, Shoemakersville, Field Hockey
Kayla Bashore Smedley was a top competitor at Indiana University, leading their women’s field hockey team to the program’s first NCAA appearance. Since beginning with the program on the U21 Team in 2004, Bashore Smedley has moved up the ranks of USA Field Hockey and is now one of the leaders on the Women’s National Team. Bashore Smedley has represented the U.S. in 133 international competitions, including a first place finish in the 2008 Olympic Games Qualifier (the first time in 20 years the U.S. National Team has qualified to compete at the Olympic Games) and an eighth place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games. Most recently, she participated with Team USA in the Four Nations Tour and Japan Test Series and Champion’s Challenge. Bashore Smedley hopes to medal at the 2012 Olympic Games and raise the profile of field hockey within the U.S.


Kimber Gabryszak, Park City, Skeleton
Kimber Gabryszak grew up in rural Alaska, 40 miles from the closest road and was home-schooled. Though her childhood was full of physical labor, she didn’t see her first gym or run her first mile until she was 22 years old; in fact, when she left rural Alaska for college, she had no sports background. After six years of training, she is now an elite, top-three athlete on the U.S. World Cup Skeleton Team. In 2010, Gabryszak was named to the 2010-2011 U.S. Skeleton World Cup team and finished the season ranked third in the U.S. and 19th in the world. Most recently, she represented the U.S. in the 2011 World Championships, Intercontinental Cup and World Cup. Gabryszak aspires to make the World Cup team during the 2011-2012 season and also become a contender at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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