Seven local Taekwondo athletes medaled in the 2019 U.S. National Taekwondo Championships held from June 27 to July 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The athletes train at Pinaroc Taekwondo in Mansfield. Of the eight athletes that competed, five won gold and two won bronze. Over 3,000 competitors from around the country competed in the championship tournament.
“It’s kind of surreal because I have a couple of newbies who have never competed before,” said Jeff Pinaroc, owner and head coach at Pinaroc Taekwondo.
Pinaroc had a student as young as seven years old compete in the tournament. All but one of the athletes were under the age of 18. Scott Hanson, 50, competed and won a gold medal in his division.
Some of the athletes coached by Pinaroc competed last year and have had past success. However, Pinaroc wants the kids that just competed for their first time to have more recognition. He also said that it is unheard of to have seven of his students medal in the annual tournament.
“It’s probably one of our better years,” he said.
All of the athletes that competed live locally except one, 13-year-old Laura Sierra, who lives in San Antonio and trains remotely. Sierra began training in Taekwondo when she was four years old. She has medaled a few times in the past, but this year was the first time she won a gold medal.
Taekwondo students at Pinaroc trained three to five times a week for two hours a day for this tournament. Many of the kids that train are still in school and must train around their school schedules.
While some of the athletes compete for fun, others have goals of competing in the Olympic Games. One route there is competing in the National Championships and being selected for a national team. Pinaroc called this the “grassroots level” of getting to the Olympics. However, to be on the national team you must be in a black belt division.
“They’re in the pipeline now,” he said.
There are other routes to the Olympics, including being ranked in the top 6 in the world.
One athlete who trained under Pinaroc, Stephen Lambdin, competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and plans on competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He began training under Pinaroc when he was five years old.
“It is not for everybody,” he said of the Olympics.
The other athletes that medaled for Pinaroc were Dianne Kiwan Malicdan, Yousof Kanan, Scott Hanson, Amir Kanaan, Khattab Kanan and Nathaniel Nunez.