Monica Bridle longed for a typical summer that any Newport Beach teenager would appreciate. Instead, she could only dream of swimming at the beach, shopping at the mall and tanning by the pool.
Instead, Bridle took her kayak paddle this summer to Poland, Finland and the U.S. national team training center in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Bridle, a senior at Newport Harbor High this fall who trains at the Newport Aquatic Center, participated in the Junior World Championships in July and also won several medals at the National Championships in August.
Bridle, 17, is a talented all-around athlete who also plays volleyball at Newport Harbor. But this summer, she had to choose between training for volleyball or kayaking.
"I figured there are a lot of great volleyball players," Bridle said. "But there aren't as many great kayakers so my chances were better."
After traveling to an international competition in Poland, Bridle teamed with Kathleen McNamee of Arlington, Va., Mahealani Lum of Honolulu and Christina Turney of Kailua, Hawaii, to reach the semifinals of the K-4 500-meter race at the Junior World Championships in Lahti, Finland, July 19-23.
One week later, the same foursome cruised to the gold medal in the same race at the Junior National Championships in Gainesville, Ga. Bridle also won a silver medal in the K-2 500-meter race and a bronze medal in the K-1 500-meter race.
Bridle also competed in the National Championships and paddled on the bronze-medal winning team in the K-4 500-meter race. But the highlight for Bridle was teaming with Olympian Sheila Conover to help her team win the silver medal in the K-4 200-meter race.
"That race was the most fun," Bridle said. "I usually race 500 meters, so the 200-meter race is so fast. And I got to paddle right behind Sheila. She was one of my first coaches and she's a role model for me."
Bridle was introduced kayaking at age 9, when she took lessons from Conover at Newport Aquatics.
Though Bridle is devoted to kayaking and other water sports--she will take part in an outrigger race from Newport to Catalina in September--Bridle still loves volleyball.
"She'll probably be one of my starting outside hitters," Newport Harbor girls' volleyball Coach Dan Glenn said. "She's strong, has great technique and is a real fighter."
Bridle spent 3 1/2 years with the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club before taking a hiatus this summer to train and participate in the kayaking championships.
"She's doing real good considering she has been juggling two sports," said John Puakea, a kayaking coach who worked with Bridle this summer at Lake Placid. "If she put her mind just on kayaking, she could be really good."
And that is something Monica's mother, Yana Bridle, has longed to hear.
"When I was young, I didn't have a chance to excel in athletics," Yana Bridle said. "My dream was that some day my child could be trained properly."
Yana Bridle and her husband, Mark, grew up in Czechoslovakia but fled the country in 1969. They gave up all their possessions and left friends and family behind when they sought political asylum in Vienna.
Mark and Yana arrived in the United States with their 4-year-old son, Mark, and Yana's mother, Helly Sekanina. The family started in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood until they saved enough money from Mark's engineering job to eventually move to Orange County.
And now their daughter is reaping the benefits.
Staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this story.