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October 21st, 2009
Kvanli wins national kayaking title


San Marcos resident Michelle Kvanli won the United States national championship in whitewater kayaking last weekend in Charlotte, NC.

The U.S. championships were held concurrently with the Charlotte Open International, the first major international race in the United States. The course, designed by U.S. team coach Cathy Hearn, proved challenging even for Europeans, who have traditionally dominated canoeing and kayaking. The field included gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics.

Kvanli struggled through her first run, but took the fastest time among Americans in the finals.

“When I saw Elena Kalishka, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, hitting gates in frustration it helped me to refocus on my final run,” Kvanli said. “I was so grateful to have the opportunity to compete in my first international final, and that motivated me to challenge myself on this course.  The results could not have been better.”

A shoulder surgery in 2007 kept her from being able to move her arm, and required six months of rehabilitation. In the last year and a half, she has trained non-stop to get back into the sport.

Six months after she could paddle again, she placed third in the 2008 National Championships, won the U.S. Open in March, then went on to place third at the U.S. national team trials.

But on the way to this year’s Pan American Championships, she was in a car wreck, where her and her fellow friend and competitor were in a truck roll-over that destroyed their boats. Both women walked away unhurt.

Kvanli patched her boat, and ended up 11th in the international competition, the second highest finish among American women.

“Winning nationals has been a long time goal, but not something I had my sights set on just yet,” Kvanli said. “In a way, I keep pinching myself. It was a really challenging course, and I was just excited to be here competing with so many awesome competitors. I am just relieved that all my training has paid off, and I am ready to get down to work for next year.”

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