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CRESTWOOD – Alayna Gary had no idea winning a raffle in her elementary classroom would change her life.
Gary, 12, won two free lessons at the Kentucky Tae Kwon Do and Fitness Academy in a drawing in her classroom three years ago and since walking through the doors for the first time has blossomed into a junior olympics champion.
“I came in and tried the first class and just really enjoyed it,” Gary said. “At the time I didn’t realize it was going to be such a commitment, but I really enjoy every minute of it now.”
Gary, who will be a seventh-grader at South Oldham Middle School this fall, was part of a 12 member team from the academy that competed in the U.S. Junior Olympic Tae Kwon Do championships July 4 in Austin, Texas.
Gary brought home a gold medal in sparring for the second time and extended her undefeated streak in tournaments to two years.
“The thing about a lot of people is when they get on a streak like that they can get a little lazy,” Master Sean Ramey, the team’s coach and owner of the academy, said. “That’s not the case with Alayna, the more she wins the more she comes in here every day and works harder.”
Gary works out four to five days a week at the academy perfecting her technique.
Her best scoring move is a back leg roundhouse kick. Ramey said one of her strong points in competition is her patience.
“I can usually wait for the other person to make a mistake and then get them,” Gary said. “If that doesn’t happen, I can go ahead and move right in on them.”
Gary holds a red belt right now and is on track to earn her black belt by 2011. The belt is one of her two goals in the sport.
“I want to get my black belt and I want to be an instructor someday,” she said.
A straight A student in school, Gary’s work ethic is well documented at the academy.
“If I make a mistake in a tournament I can’t wait to get back to practice and fix it,” Gary said.
Gary enjoys the family atmosphere during practice at the facility.
“The best thing is coming in here knowing that everyone is going to be here training and they will do everything they can to help me get better,” Gary said. “We all do that for each other. That makes it fun.”
Academy earns gold
The school took 12 competitors to Austin and came home with 12 medals, including five gold medals, all in the sparring competition.
They also earned five silver medals and two bronze. The tournament drew 3,300 competitors from across the nation.
“We have had some success before, but this may have been our best year,” Ramey said. “Having several repeat gold medal winners was huge.”
Other gold medal winners were Zach Scott, Margo Hoard, Maggie Duke and Quintin Stearman. Scott has been to six juniors and won a medal at each one.
Silver medals went to Alex Edison, Max Jones, Luke Hoard, Michael Holdway and Ben Lundy. Lundy won his in board breaking and also took a bronze in sparring.
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