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Sport Taekwondo Hosts National Tourney

By Christine Lee

The MIT Sport Taekwondo Team is ranked second in the nation after competing in the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships held at MIT on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25. Over 400 competitors from over 100 schools, including 30 competitors from MIT, competed in an exciting match of forms and full-contact, Olympic-style sparring.

This national level competition attracted some of the best collegiate athletes from all over the country, including world-class competitors like 2004’s U.S. Olympic silver medalist Nia Abdallah. As a team, MIT placed third in the Championship Division (black belts), first in the Novice Division (color belts), and second overall to University of California Berkeley. Co-captain Erica Y. Chan ’07 was named female athlete of the year.

Collegiate taekwondo tournaments take place in two parts: poomse (forms, or pre-choreographed moves) and gyo-roogi (sparring). Forms competition took place on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Memorial Drive. MIT placed second in the Championship Division, with Chan, team co-captain Bobby B. Ren G, and Rosemary E. Pike ’07 winning silver and Ryan B. Huang ’06 and Andrew Selbst taking bronze in their respective divisions.

In Novice forms, MIT won golds left and right. Rene R. Chen ’07 and John C. Ho G ranked first in the red belt division, Richard-Duane S. Chambers G dominated the blue belts, and beginners Christopher J. Han ’09 and Christine M. Lee ’09 took gold in the yellow belt division. Bronze medal winners included yellow belt Corinna Hui ’09, green belt Yunji Wu ’09, blue belt Forrest W. Liau ’06, and red belt Sharon A. Lawrence ’07.

MIT ranked third overall after forms and was ready to improve its rank in the coming day of sparring.

Sparring matches took place all Saturday in the Johnson Indoor Track, which had been transformed into a giant taekwondo arena. Matches began with color belts in the morning and increased in intensity, culminating with black belt sparring in the afternoon.

Chan was one of the stars of the tournament. After winning her first match with an emphatic score of 7-0, she sparred her way through an especially difficult division to come out on top with gold. Chan and Pike also qualified for national team trials in Denver.

Another high point of the tournament was seeing MIT teammates Chambers and Liau move through the brackets to meet each other in the final match of the men’s blue belt middleweight division. They were incredibly evenly matched, chasing each other point-by-point until Liau scored a headshot to reach the 12-point limit and win the gold.

Chen and Han both won silver medals after exciting matches. Han won the men’s yellow belt middleweight semifinal match by the judges’ vote after overtime. Meanwhile, Chen, in the final match of the women’s red belt lightweight division, faced an especially aggressive competitor from Texas A&M who had crushed her previous two opponents 7-0.

Chen made an impressive showing, and, with head coach Dan Chuang’s experienced guidance, led the match by one point until the final five seconds. Says Chen about her match, “Although I lost the finals, I am happy with my performance overall”

Other sparring highlights included Lawrence’s gold in the women’s red belt middleweight division. Kurt R. Weiss G, in his debut competition, easily picked up gold in the men’s yellow belt heavyweight division. Ho took home silver in men’s red belt middleweight sparring. Bronze medal winners included Pike, sparring in women’s blackbelt heavyweight division, John T. Wong ’06 who sparred in men’s red belt lightweight division, brown belt Finale P. Doshi G, green belt Wu, and yellow belts Hui and Lee.

In addition to competing in the year’s biggest tournament, participants acted as organizers as well.

In particular, club president Alicia Y. Zhou ’06 and team co-captain Ren managed event logistics while preparing for the sparring in the black belt level.

At the end of an exhausting weekend, MIT’s Sport Taekwondo Team is proud to stand among the best in the nation. The next tournament will be at Yale on April 8.