By Anacleta Thorne (Special Submission to USA Taekwondo)
I recently met with Heather Huynh and Long Nguyen, two team members representing the 18+ pair freestyle division at the upcoming World Poomsae Taekwondo Championships at the end of October in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
When I met with them, I learned that Huynh and Nguyen both started taekwondo at an early age.
Huynh said she was somewhat of a tomboy and not interested in playing with dolls. However, she had a competitive side and wanted to show others that girls can be just as strong and good at doing the same things as boys.
When she was in 5th grade, a close family friend who happens to be a taekwondo teacher asked Huynh to give the sport a try. She enjoyed sports and had an interest in martial arts. Once she gave taekwondo a try, she was hooked, and she’s never stopped.
For Nguyen, he started in taekwondo when he was 4 years old while living in Vietnam. He said it was his dad who signed up his older brothers and, when the time came, he naturally followed in their footsteps.
For both athletes, they said their parents inspire them. Nguyen said that since his dad passed away, while he is training or doing demonstration, he is thinking of his dad, which drives him to do his best. For Huynh, she knows the sacrifice her parents endured to leave Vietnam and come to the U.S. to give her and her little sister opportunities.
Since Huynh lives in Minnesota, and Nguyen lives in California, I was eager to learn how the two came together to become a freestyle pair. The timeline went as follows (take into consideration that it covers 10 years of their young lives):
- 2004: As a 7th grader, Huynh started to follow Team M and was so interested that she sent the team pictures of her doing sidekicks;
- 2011: Seven years later, while competing at the 2011 USA Taekwondo National Championships in Buffalo, N.Y., she finally had a chance to meet Team M;
- 2012-13: Her teacher, Master Chau Truong, and Nguyen’s brother, Anh Nguyen, started to train together. Both athletes are also 2014 USAT National Poomsae Team members. Huynh also trained alongside Team M in preparation for collegiate nationals. At this time, they really started to notice her potential and asked her to join Team M;
- 2014: Huynh and Nguyen won the 2014 18+ freestyle pair division at the USAT National Championships and will now continue their journey to compete at the ninth World Poomsae Championships.
Needless to say, competitors at their level are known for making time to train. Huynh and Nguyen have jobs and strive to find a work/life balance that allows them to be consistent with their training.
Huynh often travels to California and stays for weeks to train with Nguyen as a freestyle pair. At a minimum, they train four times a week, with each session lasting three hours.
When they are not working or training, they are busy fundraising to help offset the expenses they will incur when traveling to the World Poomsae Championships. It is not all work for these two, however, as they enjoy watching the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” when they have the chance.
The two athletes are grateful for the opportunity to represent Team USA in the upcoming World Poomsae Championships and are training hard to bring home a gold medal for their country.
The athletes self-fund themselves to travel to the World Poomsae Championships. Those interested in donating to the USAT National Poomsae Team can do so HERE.
Editor’s note: In the coming weeks, USA Taekwondo plans to develop a special section dedicated to poomsae on the USAT website. Look for the release of this special section and other feature stories like this one in the near future.