Sophomore wins gold in national taekwondo championships

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Photo courtesy Daphne Karas

Sophomore Daphne Karas (in red) performs a crescent kick to her opponent's head during the sparring competition of the national taekwondo championships. Karas won gold in in the sparring event, as well as gold in board breaking and silver in forms.

Sophomore Daphne Karas squares against her opponent in sparring, her favorite taekwondo competition. Her red daedo chest guard and socks are on, ready to signal the hits Karas gives and receives.

The referee shouts “shi jak,” and the match starts. One by one, Karas performs kick after kick. Red hits blue, hong hits chung. Headshot after headshot, Karas’ points rack up. Before she knows it, the referee stops the match. He raises Karas’ hand.

“Hong,” he shouts, signaling that Karas won the match.

“Technically I gapped my opponent. By the second round [of sparring], I had 12 points more,” Karas said.

Because there was such a big lead between Karas and her opponent, the referee ended the match and Karas won.

“It wasn’t easy, obviously, but I trained really hard, and I’m happy [that I won],” Karas said.

From July 1-7, Karas competed in the national taekwondo championships in San Jose, California. Karas won gold in sparring and board breaking, and she won silver in forms.

“[For forms,] I’m on the mat alone, and I do a routine. It’s very strict. If my thumb is the wrong way, the judges take [points] off,” Karas said.

karas knife hands online

Sophomore Daphne Karas displays the knife hands technique during the forms competition at the national taekwondo championships from July 1-7. Karas won silver in the event.

“I was overwhelmed [and] proud,” Kim Karas, Karas’ mom, said. “I absolutely knew that she had it in her to win.”

According to Master CJ Chang, Karas’ coach at the US Taekwondo Academy, Karas performed as expected. “Not everyone goes to nationals and wins, and to leave as number one [is great],” Chang said.

Two weeks before nationals, Karas attended an Olympic training camp to get into shape.

“We ran and trained,” Karas said. “I sparred black belts-in-training [at the camp] to prepare for nationals. It made it easier to spar green belts.”

When Karas qualified for nationals, she was a green belt, but before nationals, she was promoted to a blue belt, which is seven belts away from black.

Training started in September 2013, and lasted all year in preparation for nationals in the summer.

“I basically didn’t have a social life,” Karas said.

“[Karas] has something called perseverance, which is actually one of the main tenets of taekwondo,” Chang said. “That’s what makes her a great candidate [for a taekwondo competitor].”

According to Chang, Karas juggles school work, family, and friends. Then she goes to training, only to be pushed even more. “And the caliber of the training, it isn’t easy,” Chang said.

“I like how [taekwondo] taught me to be stronger. They don’t sugarcoat things,” Karas said. “If you get kicked and you bleed, they give you a tissue and tell you to go back in.”

Kim Karas has noticed this change in her daughter as well. “She has become more in touch with her physical self. She uses her time more wisely because she’s so busy, and she has more confidence in herself,” she said.

“I love learning new techniques and the joy of winning,” Karas said. “You can always get better, faster, and stronger.”

Angela DeCarlo is the Stories Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.