Three students from Kim's Taekwondo Academy, located in West Toledo, have qualified for the AAU National Taekwondo Championships June 28 through July 3 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Angel Whiteman of Genoa, Tre Mettie of Graytown and Lilly Harris of Toledo qualified for Nationals by winning age-group gold, silver or bronze medals on May 1 at the AAU Ohio State Championships in Columbus.
All three local competitors are trained by Kim's Academy owner/instructor Master Saemter Kim.
Whiteman, 18, who took silver in patterns at the Ohio State Championships, is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. She has been training for nearly 13 years.
“I did a lot better than I expected,” Whiteman said. “This was the first time I had competed with that particular pattern and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. I wasn't 100 percent confident and I just surprised myself that I got second place. I was very happy with second. The girl who got first place was amazing. I've never seen anybody perform a pattern like that.
“This gives me motivation. It's great to go to a tournament and not win all the time. It humbles you. It's nice to go against different people and see what other people bring to the table.”
Whiteman has been training with Master Kim for six months. This is the first time she has qualified for Nationals.
“I guess I have my personal expectations, just going out and doing the best I can,” Whiteman said. “I've never been to a tournament in a federation (World Taekwondo Federation) of this size. I'm not going to expect to win gold. I'm going down for the experience and kind of get a taste for what this federation has to offer for me.
“My expectations for myself are to go down and win something. You never go in overconfident. It just comes across as cocky, and generally, as long as I've been in the sport, being cocky and overconfident just gets you nowhere. Master Kim has done a great job helping me get to where I am and making sure his students are prepared for these tournaments. He's an amazing teacher. I couldn't imagine anyone else teaching me.”
Mettie, 11, won gold medals in both sparring and patterns at the Ohio State Championships. The fifth-grader said he was “happy and surprised” he won two golds.
“I have to thank Master Kim and Angel Whiteman for helping me and preparing me for nationals,” Mettie said. “I'm kind of better in patterns than I am in sparring.”
Mettie, who has been involved in taekwondo for about about a year and a half, said he's excited about competing at Nationals.
“I'm going to try my best, try a little harder and come home with the gold,” he said. “I have to stay focused, believe in myself and have confidence in myself - and do a whole lot more training.”
Harris, 8, a third-grader, won a gold medal in sparring and a bronze in patterns at the Ohio State Championships. Her father, Doug, said she's been involved in taekwondo for two years.
“She did really well (in Columbus),” Doug said. “Her sparring was kind of exciting. She was down by two points in her first match with six seconds left but got in a head shot to tie it up at 2-2 and take it to sudden death. Then she got in another head shot to win the match.”
Doug said his daughter takes taekwondo – and the competitions – very seriously.
“At this point she wants to win every single match and she wants to become a black belt and also become an instructor,” he said. “She works really hard at it, and it's taught her self-discipline and confidence.”
Because of the short time frame between the Ohio State Championships and the national tournament in Florida, Lilly will not be able to attend the national event next month.
“We're going to try to get her to qualify next year and plan to go down there next year,” Doug said. “This is our first time going through this process. She understands. She has some other activities going on this summer that she enjoys doing as well.”