For promising youngsters like 6-year-old Ricky Thomas of Mount Prospect, the 2013 USA Taekwondo National Championship was a mighty first step on the path to athletic glory. The blue belt student of the White Tiger Martial Arts Center in Wheeling left the tournament -- the world's largest taekwondo competition -- proudly bearing a bronze medal in poomsae, also known as forms.
"Ricky has brought immense pride to himself, his family and our center," said Garland's instructor, White Tiger Head Master Skik Lee. "He is a determined and skilled competitor with a bright future in taekwondo."
More than 4,000 athletes competed at this year's national championship, held in Chicago, IL from July 3-9 and boasting Olympic-level training technology. The United States Olympic Committee recognizes USA Taekwondo as the governing body for the sport in the U.S., and victory at USAT's national level is an important step on the road to compete for the U.S. at the XXXI Olympic Summer Games, to be held in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For young athletes under the age of 16, who are not yet eligible to enter Olympic trials, the USAT nationals serve as the highest and most prestigious level of competition they can achieve.