She’s a biology major at UNC Charlotte, a part- time medical scribe at CMC University hospital and, for the past 12 months, a full time competitive kayaker.
Only 21, Anna Maria Ifarraguerri has already made her mark in the world of whitewater slalom racing, earning a spot on the 2015 U.S. national team as well as the Under 23 team.
Ifarraguerri joins 45 other top paddlers in the U.S. Olympic team trials Friday and Saturday at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. They aspire to win one of five slots on the team that will compete in the Rio De Janeiro summer games Aug. 5 21 in Brazil.
Ifarraguerri took off the past 12 months from her studies to work on her paddling skills. “I wanted to make a huge improvement over last year,” she said after practice runs at the whitewater center Thursday. “I just want to keep moving ahead.”
Ifarraguerri faces stiff competition from two experienced paddlers: kayakers Ashley Nee, 26, of Bethesda, Md., and Dana Mann, 31, of Washington, D.C. Nee won the top spot on the 2015 National Team, with Ifarraguerri taking second.
Ifarraguerri said she wants to make the Rio games, but she has her eyes further down the road as well.
“Hopefully, if that’s in the cards,” she said. “I’m definitely shooting for 2020 as well (the Tokyo Olympics).”
Ifarraguerri moved here from McLean, Va., in 2013 and now lives in Belmont. During the past year, she spent a month training in Australia, finishing 29th in the Australian Open; went to Rio de Janeiro for three weeks to paddle the Olympics course and worked on the Nantahala River in Western North Carolina in winter when the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s channels close.
What does she need to do to put in a strong performance Friday and Saturday?
“Being consistent, I think,” Ifarraguerri said. “Really work on having good lines (going between the hanging slalom gates). You don’t want to let the water to take control. And good stroke placement.”
Friday’s runs are from 12:20 2:20 p.m. and 3 5 p.m. The event is open to the public at no additional charge beyond the center’s $5 per car fee.
Athletes race against the clock for fastest times. Kayaks and single canoes look similar as top decks cover both. But kayakers sit and use double bladed paddles. Canoeists kneel and use single bladed paddles.