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Taekwondo wins first national title

Correction appended.

Twenty-five members of the Brown Taekwondo team brought home medals galore, trophies and, for the first time, the national title at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association Championships April 9-10.

The national tournament at the University of California at Davis hosted more than 300 competitors from 30 schools. The two-day event included competitions for the color belt division April 9 and black belt division April 10. Competitions were divided according to belt colors, weight and gender.

Twenty-one Bears won medals, and some took home more than one.

For the past several years, the club team has ranked among the top three nationally, which put pressure on the team to maintain its high level of performance, said Bhuvic Patel '11, head instructor and coach.

Students who competed at the tournament participated in a week of intensive training over winter break, focusing on forms and defense.

"It had been a long journey to get there," said Karin Wefald '13, who won first place in the featherweight division. "You had to mentally prepare yourself for the experience."

"At nationals, I just thought back to how much I've trained," said Lei Ma '13, who placed second in the feather weight division. "No way I was going to mess it up. I was overprepared. When we were there, we were ready."

Brown Taekwondo is the biggest martial arts club on campus with over 120 members, most of whom did not start taekwondo until their first year at Brown.

Alums also attended the competition to help out and drive students around the area. "Seeing alumni there, I saw how much of a group effort it was," Wefald said.

While training for nationals, students traveled from campus to Sung Sun Park's '99 taekwondo center in Smithfield for additional practices.

"He's our master, and he decides our curriculum and our training," Patel said. The national championship is also a "title representative of his hard work," he added. "Master Sung Park shows a sense of the club's continuity."

The many years of improvements and commitment in the club have contributed to this year's win, Patel said. Though the taekwondo program started in the 1960s, the club did not really become active until the 1980s, he added. Since then, the club has increased its membership and become stronger each year.

"The club has been working towards this place for a long time," Patel said.

"There was positive energy from the first fight," he said, and the competitions following it continued to build energy.

Now that the team has won the championship, members hope the program will gain more exposure and widespread recognition, Patel said. He said he hopes whenever people speak of college and taekwondo, they will think of Brown and its role in the sport.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Brown Taekwondo team had an intensive week of training for nationals during spring break. The week of intensive training was during winter break. The Herald regrets the error.



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