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Thursday, October 13, 2011
American women to watch at Pan Am Games

By Beau Dure

Some U.S. athletes to watch at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara:

Shawn Johnson, gymnastics. The Des Moines, Iowa, native, who won silver in the all-around and gold on balance beam at the 2008 Olympics, retired from the sport after the Beijing Games and went on to win "Dancing With The Stars." Now 19 and attempting a comeback, the Pan Ams will be her first major international competition since the Beijing Olympics.

Jenn Suhr, track and field. The 2008 Olympic silver medalist, Suhr (formerly Jenn Stuczynski) has struggled recently with injuries, though she did place fourth at the world championships in August.

Breanna Stewart, basketball. The young U.S. women's team includes the No. 1 high school prospect in the Class of 2012. The 6-foot-3 forward, a senior at Cicero-North High in Syracuse, N.Y., will likely play for Connecticut next year.

Kelly Kulick, bowling. The first woman to win a PBA Tour event will be in international action.

Queen Underwood, boxing. Women's boxing is debuting on the Olympic program in 2012, and Underwood, a lightweight (60kg/132lbs division) is one of the country's top fighters.

Carrie Johnson, flatwater canoe/kayak. The two-time Olympian needs good results to make it back to the Games.

Beezie Madden, equestrian. Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008 as part of the U.S. show jumping team and also took an individual bronze in Beijing.

Kayla Harrison, judo. The 2010 world champion, just 21, will be a strong favorite in the 78kg/172lbs division.

Margaux Isaksen, modern pentathlon. Only 16 when she made her Olympic debut in Beijing, the Arkansas native has recorded a handful of World Cup top-10 performances in the past three years.

Rhonda Rajsich, racquetball. The two-time and reigning world champion is also pursuing careers in music, acting and modeling.

Paige Railey, sailing. The 2006 world sailor of the year missed the 2008 Olympics but should be a medal favorite in 2012 in the Laser Radial (women's single-handed dinghy) division.

Kim Rhode, shooting. The 32-year-old Rhode, who competes in the double trap and skeet shooting events, has four Olympic medals dating back to the 1996 Atlanta Games, where she won gold in double trap as a 16-year-old.

Elizabeth Pelton, swimming. At age 15, Michael Phelps' former North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate finished sixth in the 200 meter backstroke at the 2009 world championships. She will have a decent shot at making the Olympic team next summer and should be extremely competitive in Guadalajara.

Christina McHale, tennis. The 19-year-old New Jersey native has enjoyed a breakthrough season, cracking the top 50 in the WTA rankings; upsetting world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati; and advancing to the third round at the U.S. Open.

Gwen Jorgensen, triathlon. The former University of Wisconsin swimmer and runner is a recent (early 2010) convert to triathlon and has already clinched an Olympic spot for herself in her new sport.

Betsey Armstrong, water polo. The 28-year-old Michigan native, the U.S. goalkeeper, was the 2010 world player of the year.

Elena Pirozhkova, wrestling. The Russia-born wrestler has earned a silver medal and placed fifth in the last two world championships in the 63kg/139 lbs category.