On Thursday, February 13th, twenty-two members of the National AAU Taekwondo Cadet Teams arrived in Montreal Canada to participate in the 2014 Canadian Open Championship. And just getting there was no easy feat. A monumental snow and ice storm ravaged the entire East coast of the United States that day (and the preceding day in the more southern states) making travel nearly impossible. More than 7,000 flights were canceled over the two day period making long distance travel ‘iffy’ at best.
But in a demonstration of true martial spirit all athletes, coaches, and their accompanying parents made it in on their expected days (albeit many, many delays). 10-11 year old youth team members Devin Reppert and Giselle Giambi we joined by the full 12-14 Cadet Team which included; Ana Paula Aguiliera, Juan Pablo Alvarado, Tiera Antommarchi, Becka Butler, Shaula and Jorge Gomez Jr., Isabella Hrunka, Joshua Kosloski, Natalie Loureda, Marlon Nunez, Gabriella Rentas, Gabriel Rosa, Miguell Sanchez, Cameron Stephenson, Danielle Wassell and Morgan Workinger, Junior Team Members Sophia Greco, Connor Wilson, Benjamin Snow, Ashley Warner, and Jacob Rigoli also made the trip on their own and represented AAU very well.
Working with the Team at this year’s event were National Team Coaches Arlene Limas, Luciano Medina, and Georgie Martinez. National Sport Chair Mike Friello also accompanied the group providing logistical and moral support having laid the groundwork with all athlete and coach’s registrations as well all hotel reservations for the entire entourage. As per AAU Team Travel policy every single athlete was also accompanied by at least parent and these outstanding supporters were there every step of the way.
Coach Limas, who arrived one day earlier in order to coach some of her own older athletes, provided an additional boost of support helping to coordinate those delayed by weather as well as an early ‘unscheduled work-out’ on Thursday evening who had made it in and needed to cut those last few ounces prior to weigh-in.
Friday’s schedule included team training at the venue, a magnificent facility built to support Canada’s hosting of the Olympic Games which also serves as an Olympic training facility many of that country’s national teams as well as the official weigh-in themselves. All twenty-two athletes ‘made weight’ on Friday—a real tribute to their dedication and commitment to the Team.
With only the Cadet Team participating in the Open Championship, competition was limited to just one day Saturday making for a really long work day for the coaching staff, but a most rewarding one for all who participated. This 22 member team captured a total of 14 medals in this 1,000+ athlete event! Even more amazing was that a full 50% of those medals were GOLD in color! An additional four (4) Silver and three (3) Bronze were also earned by the Cadets. Junior Team members, Sophia Greco and Connor Wilson also contributed to AAU’s medal count with Silver and Gold Medals respectively.
The Official medal results for the Cadet Team were:
“This team did a truly remarkable job representing the AAU Taekwondo Program” said National Chair Master Friello. Less than half the Team had ever competed outside the States and everyone’s first International endeavor can always be totally unnerving, “OMG, my next match is against Chinese Taipei or oh wow, this next opponent is the national championship from Mexico. Coupled with the fact that these young athletes are now working with a relatively brand new coach (to them) in the chair can make for an uncomfortable position for many”.
But they ALL performed extremely well including those who did not medal. Some lost in sudden death overtime—others by just one point in regulation. “The most important lesson to be learned through such international experience, is that THEY are among the best anywhere says Master Friello. They’ve already won at their state/district championships, the excelled at the AAU National championship, and then persevered through an arduous Team Trials competition. Following that process, they’ve all benefited from National Team Training and they are being coached at these events by the very best coaches the US has to offer.
Just competing at an event like this makes the rest of their competition careers that much easier. It’s really hard to get rattled at any future event after having survived and prospered in this environment.
A GREAT BIG CONGRATULATIONS to all members of the 2014 National AAU Taekwondo CADET TEAM on a job well done! And now it’s on to Hamburg, Germany in April for the National Junior and Senior Teams!
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