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Taekwondo Triumphs at Princeton

By Tim Kreider


The MIT Sport Taekwondo Club fielded a team of 40 competitors at the Princeton University Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 28. The tournament was the third this season in the Ivy/Northeast Collegiate Taekwondo League (INCTL), and it was one of the largest in league history, with teams from 20 schools in attendance. After ten hours of exhausting competition, the MIT team emerged victorious, narrowly winning first place over chief rival Cornell University.

Taekwondo competition is divided into two events: poomse (forms) and sparring. MIT scores points for each individual team member who places (gold, silver, or bronze medal) in one of five poomse divisions, and for each team of three (a lightweight, a middleweight, and a heavyweight) that places with a medal in one of three sparring divisions.

The largest poomse division was the men’s black belt division, and out of the top 12 competitors selected for a final runoff, five were MIT men. Richard Sinn ’06 performed a gorgeous Koryo (a type of form) for a second place win; meanwhile, Erica Chan ’07 won second place for black belt women with her nearly vertical side kicks. Margaret Cho ’04 won first place in women’s red belt, and Bobby Ren ’05 won second on the men’s side. MIT blue belts dominated the field+: Sandra Yu ’06 and Stephanie Lee ’06 won first and second for the women, while Brandon Kam ’04 and Ryan Huang ’06 took second and third for the men. John Ho G took third for green belts. Finally, our beginners shone in the white/yellow belt division with a pair of gold medals, won by Taras Gorishnyy G and Diana Cheng ’07. MIT finished the poomse event with a commanding lead, over twice as many points as second-place Cornell.

Men and women’s A-team (advanced level) sparring, the divisions with the most points at stake in the tournament, began after poomse. The women A1 team of Jaime Lien ’05, Nancy Archambault G, and Cho placed third, winning 65 points for MIT. Although a painfully narrow loss prevented the strong men’s A1 team from placing, the men’s A2 team, featuring Ed Cho G, Nathan Hanagami ’04, Tim Kreider ’04, and George Whitfield G, came in at third place. Middleweight Hanagami set the tone for the team’s victory by winning his first match with a 16-0 TKO. Whitfield, the alternate heavyweight, won a key match against an old personal rival, which simultaneously sent MIT A2 to the semi-finals and denied Cornell A2 the opportunity to place. Ed Cho, in his INCTL debut, went undefeated for four rounds as the team’s lightweight.

With MIT’s lead from poomse faltering after Cornell’s success in A-team sparring, Team Captains Sinn and Conor Madigan G rallied the team in preparation for B-team (intermediate) and C-team (beginner) sparring. In these divisions, the MIT team proved the depth of its talent and determination, with many exciting victories and personal breakthroughs among the 26 color belts, who ranged in taekwondo experience from two years to two months. The team also showed its spirit, as MIT players rushed from ring to ring cheering for teammates until their throats were raw.

Points for MIT came from the rising stars of women’s C1: Rene Chen ’07, Sharon Lawrence ’07, Laurel Ng G and men C1: Jerry Chao ’05, Ho, and Gorishnyy each who each had first place wins. A true mark of talent is the ability of a C-team player to compete also in the B-team division; Ho and Gorishnyy did just that when they teamed up with Ren on men B1 for a third place victory. In a strategic re-ranking of teams to take advantage of seeding, veterans Jaime Lien ’05, Delphine Dean G, and Cho competed as B2, and they won third place.

When the competition finally ended, the entire gymnasium waited in hushed anticipation for the results. Ever since MIT’s surprise victory last season over long-time INCTL champion Cornell, other teams have learned that the best they can hope for is third place. On the 28th, this dubious distinction went to NYU for its 150 points. MIT barely beat Cornell this time, 468 to 453, but the Engineers clearly earned the moral victory of the day and gained momentum for the remainder of the season. Cornell now leads MIT by a mere 153 points with two tournaments remaining in the season, one at Yale and one at Columbia, both held in April.