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Four members of the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club are representing the United States at the 2009 Summer World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. Competing from MIT are Rebecca Hung ’11, Karolina A. Corin G, Alicia Y. Zhou ’06, and Bobby Ren ’05.

MIT Sport Taekwondo Head Instructor Daniel Chuang will be one of the coaches for the U.S. team for the second consecutive year.

Held every two years, the World University Games, officially known as the Universiade (University Olympiad), is a large international sporting event for collegiate athletes from around the world, similar to the Olympics. This year’s games will involve of over 9,000 athletes from 140 countries competing in 15 Olympic sports. In fact, the Universiade is the largest sporting event in the world this year.

Taekwondo competition at the Universiade incorporates both kyorugi (sparring) and poomsae (forms). This is in contrast to the Olympics, in which the taekwondo competition consists of sparring only. Forms consist of choreographed sequences of kicks and hand techniques, which are unique to rank. Forms competitors are judged on both their technical correctness and the way they express the forms—power, speed, and rhythm.

At the Universiade, as at all major World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) competitions, the poomsae competition is divided up into individual forms, men’s and women’s three-person teams, and mixed pairs. Ren and Zhou are competing as a mixed pair while Corin, Hung, and Zhou are a women’s team. There is an added element of difficulty in pair and team forms since each move in the form not only must be correctly executed, but also must be synchronized. In all divisions, competitors prepare a total of six forms, two to be performed in the preliminary round, two in the semifinal round, and two in the final round. Across the divisions, these consist of the highest color belt forms and the first five black belt forms.

The U.S. Poomsae team was selected at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) Championships, held at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island on March 21-22. They also competed at the first Pan-American University Taekwondo Championship in Berkeley, CA on May 29, a competition between collegiate athletes from around the Western Hemisphere. At that event, the U.S. team earned 16 of the 21 gold medals, including one captured by Ren and Zhou.

Currently in progress, the Universiade runs from July 1 to 12. Taekwondo competition began with individual poomsae on Wendesday, July 1 and wrapped up with the completion of the sparring competition on Monday, July 6.

Although no medals were earned by the U.S. Poomsae team, both the women’s team of Corin, Hung, and Zhou and the mixed pair of Ren and Zhou advanced to the semifinal round. Corin, Hung, and Zhou finished in ninth place and Ren and Zhou finished in 11th. The U.S. men’s team of Johnny Nguyen and Anthony Nguyen from Arizona State University and Jason Hwang from California State University, San Bernardino advanced to final round, finishing in sixth place.

More information about the Universiade can be found at http://www.ub2009.org/. Additionally, Zhou is writing an official blog for the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association at http://www.ncta-usa.com/alicia_zhou_2009_SWUG_blog.html.