MIT has many notable students walking down the Infinite: people who excel in their own fields as scientists, engineers, and even athletes. This is the case of Michelle W. Chen, ’14 (known as “Machine” to teammates), who competed with Carissa Fu from Boston University and Miyako Yerick from the University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 31 in the eighth World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Bali, Indonesia.
Poomsae is Korean for forms: a very precise set of prearranged kicks and stances that require considerable amounts of strength, flexibility and precision. Each form has a particular meaning, and can be executed in teams, thus increasing the difficulty by adding the factor of synchronization.
Chen and her teammates had already won first place this past April at the U.S. National Collegiate Competition, and repeated that feat in July at the U.S. Team Trials, being therefore selected as representatives of the U.S. National Poomsae team for the Female Team Under 29 category. The world championships consisted of four intensive days of poomsae. Seven judges score the performances of the poomsae based on accuracy of moves and presentation (speed and power). For team performances, there is an additional judging criteria in presentation for how synchronized the three competitors are in performing the poomsae. There are 25 different divisions for competition based on gender and age.
Over 600 athletes from 50 different countries competed for 25 medals at the championships and Chen, Fu, and Yerick advanced to the finals after competing against 17 other teams. They trained under the direction of Master Dan Chuang, who had previously competed as an U.S. National Poomsae Team member himself and was selected as one of the five coaches for this year’s team. Together, they managed to beat top caliber teams from countries including Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil, and finished eighth overall. This ranking is the second highest that the U.S. has ever received under this category.
“From this competition, I have experienced what it is like to compete at an international level as well as to meet athletes who all love and train in Taekwondo,” said Chen. “It’s been amazing to be able to represent the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club, MIT and the USA at the eighth World Championships. It’s time to train harder for the next competition.” Chen is a Course 6 major at MIT.