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Friday, June 18, 2004

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Staff photo/By Jason Norman From left, Raven Morris, Thomas Harbour, Andrew Simsonsen, Kendall Worrell and Kathy Cooper, all members of the Warriors Club of Suffolk, show their winnings from the Virginia State Taekwondo Commonwealth Games in Midlothian last weekend.

Breaking through to the gold

By Jason Norman

Suffolk News-Herald

Three boards.
That's all that stood between Raven Morris and her second gold medal of the Virginia State Taekwondo Commonwealth Games in Midlothian last weekend. In her first contest, the Mount Zion Elementary School student had already brought home top honors in Forms competition, and now looked to smash through to first in breaking.

In breaking, participants kick through three six-inch boards (more experienced students compete with foot-long wood). Judges held the three boards in the air, and Raven kicked into action.

Her first axe kick snapped the board in half. She turned to the second, and hurled a side kick into it. The board held, but that only made her more determined, and her foot won the battle on the second try. Then she slammed down on the third one.

It held. Another effort also proved unsuccessful. At this point, Raven knew that she'd have to blast it fast to have a shot.

The wood didn't stand a chance. Her third kick whacked it right in half, and Raven had secured her second gold of the day.

"I felt really mad," she said. "I wanted to kick it into a million pieces! I was so proud of myself afterward." She took first in sparring later on.

At the start, she said, "I was very, very nervous. But I'm a fast learner."

She ran through a set of Forms (fighting stances) to start off with a big win. "When they called my name," she said, "I was so excited that I almost jumped off the win block! I felt so happy!"

Meanwhile, Andrew Simsonsen, a fellow member of Wayne Spencer's Warrior Club of Suffolk, psyched himself up for his own sparring contest. The only yellow belt, he'd have to battle a green (i.e. higher ranked) competitor.

But Simsonsen wasn't too worried. "At every single competition, I've had to fight someone with more experience," he said. "I kind of expected it."

He and his opponent strapped on their helmets, chest pads, and arm protectors, which protect the forearms. Sparring battles are held in two two-minute periods.

"I had to hit and move, just like in class," he said. Simsonsen did so in the first period, battering his opponent with roundhouse and side kicks. However, the judges didn't seem to see it, as the first period ended at 0-0 (to score, two of the three judges must award the fighter a point).

"I was frustrated," Simsonsen said. "I'd been hitting him in the head and gotten in some solid kicks, but no points." With 20 seconds left in the match, however, he landed a solid shot to his opponent's chest.

Then he went on the defensive. "I backed up and moved around, because I knew I probably wouldn't score again," he said. "I was just being cautious." It worked; his opponent wasn't able to get off a solid shot, and Simsonsen got the gold. He also took second in Forms.

Last June 5, Kendall Worrell competed in Forms in the Battle of the 7 Cities event held at Virginia Beach's Little Creek Amphib Base. Though he didn't place, the Southwestern Elementary student was hungry for more at the Commonwealth Games.

It showed, as he charged through his routine to take the top spot in Forms. "I was easy, but I was still surprised," he said on winning. "It's always fun to get first."

He had even more fun in the breaking event, nabbing the top spot in three kicks. "It doesn't really hurt, because I've broken a lot of boards at home. That's my favorite event, because I really like breaking stuff." He also finished third in sparring.

While Kendall prefers breaking things, Kathy Cooper would rather show her formidable Form skills. "I'm really good at it," she said. "In sparring, you have to beat someone better, but in Forms, you're competing at your own level. I got really nervous, but it will probably be pretty easy next time."

Not that she needs much help there - Kathy finished second in sparring and third in breaking at the Games.

Thomas Harbour, who won first in sparring and second in Forms at the Virginia Beach event, finished second in sparring at the Games. "I think I got a lot faster and hit harder (than at Virginia Beach)," he said. "I'm going to try harder, because my teacher told me that if I compete at another tournament, I can move up to my blue belt."