Right with the best in the world
Post Independent Sports Editor
Auston Freeman summed up the feelings of himself and his teammates at the fifth-annual U.S. Open Taekwondo Hanmadang last month.
“We were all nervous, but there was definitely confidence behind all of that nervousness,” the 14-year-old Freeman said. “By the time we came on stage, we were all totally confident and ready to win a lot of medals.”
Did they ever.
Freeman was among the 38 area martial artists competing at the event held at the World Arena in Colorado Springs. In what’s been billed as the largest event of its kind in the United States and the second-largest event of its kind on the planet, the members of PRO TKD Martial Arts Center in Carbondale raked in 68 medals to give the outlet its best event finish for the second year in a row.
“I’m proud of everyone,” PRO TKD Master Doug Fueschel said. “Last year was good, but this year was even better.”
Fueschel wasn’t completely sure how many medals the outlet brought home last year, but he knew for sure that this year was an improvement. In all, the area athletes brought home 29 gold medals, 22 silvers and 17 bronze medals from the event, which brings in competitors and spectators from around the globe. There is a difference, however: unlike Olympic Taekwondo, which focuses on the martial art as a competitive sport, the Hanmadang is treated as more of a festival with competitive aspects included.
That didn’t take away from any of the accomplishments achieved by the area participants, who quickly got rid of the initial nerves they had prior to competition.
“Master Fueschel deserves a big thanks, because he helped us out with everything,” said 14-year-old Christian Agular, who won a silver medal in creative forms with weapons and a gold medal in team creative form with weapons. “He really helped us prepare for this competition, and we were more than ready for it.”
Winners from the outlet who helped rack up the medal count ranged from 7 to 14 years old. The youngest of them was 7-year-old LanaBella Greengrass, a green belt who won a gold medal in her age group for individual creative forms without weapons.
Others included 10-year-old Lorena Bernal, who won a silver in individual creative forms with weapons. She also teamed up with Emma Baumli, 10, to win a gold medal in team creative forms with weapons. Baumli raked in four medals all together, winning gold in individual creative forms with weapons, and bronze medals in team creative forms without weapons and individual creative forms without weapons.
Freeman teamed with 14-year-old Durga Reed to take the age-group silver in team creative form without weapons, and Freeman garnered silvers in individual back kick breaking and individual knife hand breaking. Reed earned a bronze on his own, taking it in individual creative forms without weapons.
And those who earned medals during the tournament got to take something from the site that was much more valuable than a medal to hang around the neck.
“When we compete in creative forms on a regular basis, it becomes a part of us,” Agular said. “There’s a lot of repetition there and we do a lot of things over and over, but it never gets old. We love the sport.”
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