Taekwondo seizes second place in conference

Taekwondo team overcomes odds to finish strong for the season

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Samantha Amey-Gonzalez '18 delivers a powerful head-kick against her opponent.
Frank Fang

Despite fighting with historically small numbers, the MIT Taekwondo team advanced against East Coast powerhouse teams such as West Point and Tufts to take second place in Division I of the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference.

After a semester of intense and focused training, the team put forth an incredible showing for the choreographed forms, or poomsae, competition in all three fall season tournaments at MIT, Cornell, and Brown respectively. However, the team’s results at the Cornell tournament were particularly stunning. With a near record-setting four gold medals, one silver, and three bronze medals reported in by noon, MIT took 108 points alone in poomsae.

Consistent high-scorer Nina Anwar ’18 took gold in the highly competitive red belt division, having trained hard after scoring silver in the MIT tournament. She later successfully defended her gold medal at the Brown tournament.

Samuel Majors ’19, only recently promoted to blue-belt, blew away the competition and took home the gold in a shocking debut to his new division. The Brown tournament produced tougher competition, but he maintained his medaling status with an outstanding silver medal.

Ali-Amir Aldan ’17, and Anya Quenon ’20, both yellow-belts who started the sport only two months before, seized gold against experienced competitors. Though he was unable to compete at Cornell, red-belt poomsae champion Frank Fang G. consistently took home the gold in both the MIT and Brown tournament, leading by a significant margin.

Team president Renee Zhao ’18 and taekwondo veteran Tam Nguyen G. broke through the competition with a silver medal and bronze medal respectively. Both solidified their medaling status with a bronze medal, Nguyen with a bronze at MIT and Zhao with a bronze at Brown.

MIT has always been known on the East Coast as a powerhouse in sparring and this year was no different, despite the odds. With smaller numbers than usual, all men’s A and B teams only had two fighters, a lineup that suffered a significant disadvantage in the three-man sparring team format that ECTC follows. Regardless, three such teams - men’s A1 with Nick Hensel G. and Ajay Saini ’18, men’s B1 with Akwasi Owusu-Akyaw ’17 and Lorenz Baumgartner G, and men’s B2 with Caue Borlina G. and Manuel Guillen ‘18 – all pulled through against heavy competition despite each missing a heavyweight to finish in the quarters at the MIT tournament as well as at the Brown tournament in a slightly modified lineup.

Most notably, the men’s A1 quarter-finals fight at Brown produced what may arguably be the upset of the year, in which Hensel defeated Cornell’s previously-undefeated men’s black belt lightweight in a nail-biting overtime match. Not to be outdone, Saini consistently dominated the black-belt middleweight competition with his signature crescent kick, with a spotlight on a gaudy 21-0 scored against Stonybrook. 

Men’s C1 and C2 both produced an outstanding showing at MIT tournament, with rookies on both teams sparring in competition for the first time. Notably, Men’s C1 – with Lawrence Lai G., Joshua Murdock G., and rookie Malivai Luce G. – seized bronze at MIT and finished at quarters in both Cornell and Brown.

Luckily, the women’s sparring teams enjoyed a fuller line-up than their male counterparts. Women’s B1 – with Nina Anwar ’18, Ashley Wang ’17, Sam Amey-Gonzalez ’18 – consistently dominated the red-belt sparring scene, taking home the gold in MIT, and re-seizing first place at Brown after taking the bronze at Cornell. The B1 team won the MIT tournament in a nail-biting finals match, with Anwar’s tough overtime loss avenged with a point-gap by Amey-Gonzalez. With everything on the line, Wang managed to win the final fight and clinch the gold for women’s B1 team with a cool head a strong cut kicks game. Later at the Brown competition, this team would face the same individuals they had fought earlier, with successful revenge matches for all three fighters to take gold again.

Through tough losses and nerve-wracking overtime matches, the women’s A1 team – with Renee Zhao ’18, Tam Nguyen G., and Rachel Connick G.– broke through at MIT and Brown to take bronze. After tough losses each early in the season, Nguyen and Zhao both fought on undeterred, with a notable 19-0 point gap win by Zhao at Brown. However, the winning highlight of the women’s A1 team would have to go to Connick’s stunning back kick in her match against Stonybrook, which was the talk of the team on the bus ride home.

This season, in addition to incredible showings overall, saw equally exciting winning streaks in sparring: veteran fighter Rachel Connick with a six-win streak, bright rookie Malivai Luce with a six-win streak, and powerhouse Sam Amey-Gonzalez with an eight-win streak.

The MIT Taekwondo team will remember their victories and lessons learned alike as they buckle down to train through the winter.