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Olympic recognition: US committee names regatta competitor athlete of the month
Kayaker Emily Vinson makes her way from the boathouse to the course at the Clarks Bridge Olympic Venue Wednesday afternoon for an afternoon of training. The Olympic Committee has named Vinson the female athlete of the month for her performance at the Canada Day Regatta.

When Emily Vinson was in the fifth grade she realized that ballet slippers did not quite fit her. She decided to try flatwater kayaking on for size.

Eight years later, the 19-year-old Vinson reigns as the United States’ Olympic Committee’s female athlete of the month and has her bow pointed in the direction of the 2012 Olympics.

"I thought I’d try it to see if I’d like it, and I just fell in love with the sport," Vinson said.

Last year, Vinson paddled for the U.S. Junior World Championship team, and she also had the opportunity to race at the Senior World Championships when another team member fell ill.

Now, she competes with the U.S. Under 23 team. Vinson’s recent performances along with the rigor of her training schedule and her ability to push herself to her fullest potential have earned her the title of the Olympic Committee’s female athlete of the month, according to an intern with the Olympic Committee.

It was an honor that came sooner than Vinson expected.

Before competing in the Canada Day Regatta on July 1, Vinson and other team members were told that their performances in that regatta and at the Lake Placid International Regatta later that week would be scrutinized to determine the sport’s athletes of the month.

After Vinson placed in the top three in all of her races at the Canada Day Regatta, however, officials did not wait until the Lake Placid races to name her as their female athlete of the month.

Committee officials waited to name the male athlete of the month, Nick Hanoian of the San Diego Canoe and Kayak Team, until after the second regatta.

"It was ... a big honor, because I got announced early," Vinson said. "I was really surprised, and I was really, really excited."

It was an honor derived from diligence.

The recent Gainesville High School graduate puts her blue and white boat in the water twice a day, six days a week — a schedule that does not lend itself to the average social life of a college-bound teenager.

"I could probably count on one hand the number of good friends I made in high school," Vinson said. "... I honestly didn’t have time for it."

Training twice a day with a "big group of boys" at the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, Vinson spends most of her time with kayakers, and refers to them as her "family at Lanier."

In the fall, Vinson hopes to add to her family and make more time for friends when she heads up river to North Georgia College & State University to study nursing.

"I’m living in the dorms specifically for that reason. I want to make some good friends, to do some social things," Vinson said.

Still, Vinson does not plan to stray far from her Olympic goals: She chose the Dahlonega college
because of its proximity to her Lake Lanier training ground.

"I wanted to go to a college that was close to Lanier so I can come train every day," Vinson said.

And in the next three years, Vinson plans to pack up her stethoscope and her blue and white boat, and head west to prepare herself for the 2012 Olympics at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

"I love Georgia, but that’s where I need to be to excel for the Olympics."