The MIT Sport Taekwondo Club competed in this year’s National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) Championships, and placed top three in the Overall, Novice and Championship (Black Belt) divisions in a series of tough matches that put the team’s skills to the test. Additionally, the team managed to put forth stellar performances at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Tournament (RPI) in NY, coming only second to Cornell in the Division I results out of over 15 schools.
Regarding the NCTA Championships, the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs saw fierce battles in every single belt (skill) level, which culminated in four medals in the yellow belt division: gold for Jean Chow ’16 and Geoffrey Gilmore ’16, and bronze for Yang Dai ’16 and Aaron Nojima ’16. The women’s green-blue team earned two medals: Tiffany Chen G (gold) in fly, and Casey Denham ’15 (bronze), while the red belt division obtained three: gold for Karine Yuki ’13, and bronze for Tam Nguyen ‘13 and Henrique Pondé ’13.
On the other hand, in the Black belt category the sparring matches were extremely tough. Even though the crew was relatively inexperienced, team captain Matt Weinberg G gave a hard time to the bantamweight gold medalist in his first round and Michelle Chen reached the quarterfinals of the featherweight division.
In forms, the team made an amazing demonstration of coordination, strength and equilibrium which finished in gold for Tahin Syed and Karine Yuki, silver for Geoffrey Gilmore and Tam Nguyen, and bronze for Tiffany and Stephanie Chen. In the black belt category, gold went to Michelle Chen ’14, Miyako Yerick (U. Texas Austin) and Carissa Fu (Boston U.) in the team trials divisions, and gold for Michelle Chen, Erika Lee and Hilary Monaco, bronze for Lori Ling, Kristina Lozoya ’13, Tara Sarathi G, Matt Weinberg, Andrew Mandelbaum G and Dan Stallworth ’14 in the championship division.
Chen, Yerick, and Fu would go on to represent the United States in August, visiting South Korea to train with their university counterparts in a National Collegiate Taekwondo Team Training Camp.
RPI, which happened a week after the NCTA championships, was slightly different. It had been, in the words of Head Instructor Daniel Chuang, “a trying week”: With the unfortunate events surrounding the Boston Marathon, the lockdown of campus, and the fact that there were two major tournaments one after the other, all in one week’s time, it was just amazing to see the dedication that the team put into it.
Master Chuang said that he was “very proud of how the team held together … I think that the team performed exceedingly well and managed to still have a very close shot at winning the cup. For yet another season, it came down to just a few close matches/poomsae [forms].”
Indeed, in forms the team’s excellence was proven over and over again. Michelle Chen, Tam Nguyen, and Isaac Fenta obtained gold in their respective categories (thus making 4 golds in a row for Tam and 3 for Isaac in ECTC torunaments), while Yang Dai and Geoffrey Gilmore obtained silver and Matt Weinberg and Jean Chow got bronze.
The sparring matches were intense, to say the least: the Women’s C1 (beginner) team, comprised of Jean Chow, Jackie Wu ’16, Margaret Okobi ’16, and Yang Dai as alternate, earned gold. The Men’s B2 (intermediate) team, with Kevin Hu ’14, Brandon Baker G and Shapagat Berdibek ’15 got bronze after a series of really close matches against Tufts, Vermont, and Cornell. Both Women’s and Men’s A1 (advanced) teams got silver, and the matches can be considered as some of the most memorable of the season.
The Men’s A1 team (Matt Weinberg, Aziz Abdellahi G and Daniel Stallworth) fought in the finals against Cornell, where it all came down to the middle weight’s fight after losing in light weight and winning in heavy. Both fighters were tired, and so the match was an essentially offensive battle that ended 18-13 in Cornell’s favor — not before Dan Stallworth put some amazing flying side kicks into the match.
Similarly, the Women’s A1 team (Shan He G, Michelle Chen and Kristina Lozoya) also faced Cornell on the finals, where it ended with a very tactical match with triple overtime for Kristina Lozoya. Unfortunately, her adversary prevailed and so the silver went for MIT.
Overall, the tournaments were a very fun and rewarding experience with many accomplishments. However, the best part is that there is always room for improvement, and the team knows that training hard will pay off in this year’s tournaments and championships.