Glenview youth wins bronze at Junior Pan-American Karate Championships
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:47AM
Matthew Jen, 12, of Glenview, brought home the bronze medal in the 12-13 year-old 35Kg Kumite (sparring) Division at the XXIII Junior Pan-American Karate Championships, held in Cancun, Mexico.
The U.S.A. National Karate Federation took 76 athletes ages 12-20 to the Junior Pan-American Karate Championships in August to compete in 46 divisions against more than 500 athletes from 20 Pan-American countries. Team U.S.A. won three gold, 11 silver and 11 bronze medals. Jen was one of only two male 12-year-olds to make the U.S. Junior National Karate team and the only 12-year-old male on the team to medal.
Qualifying for the U.S. team the first year he was old enough to compete for a spot, presented Jen with a very different experience.
“At my dojo (Fonseca Martial Arts in Evanston), I am one of the oldest black belts, so the younger kids look up to me,” Jen said, “but I was the one of the youngest (on Team U.S.A.), so I looked up to the other team members. It pumped me up for competition because I wanted to be as good as them.”
Jen is no stranger to competing, with 19 national and international titles in the last five years, “but nothing compares to being part of Team U.S.A.,” he said.
Jen added: “At nationals I am only with a small group of kids from my dojo, but at Pan Ams I was part of a huge team. We all had Team U.S.A. warm-ups on and we cheered for each other against the other countries. It was amazing.”
Jen earned his spot on the U.S. Junior National Karate Team by winning a gold medal in his Kumite Division at the National Karate Federation National Karate Championships and U.S. Team Trials, held in July in Florida. More than 2,000 qualified karate athletes competing for the title of national champion and spots on the U.S. junior and senior karate teams. Only the first- and second-place athletes from each division won a spot on the team and the right to represent the U.S. at the Junior and Senior Pan-American Karate Championships.
Jen said his Fonseca Martial Arts teammates were very supportive.
“Usually everyone takes a break from training hard in August, but my senseis (teachers) and teammates spent their Augusts in the dojo training with me to get me ready for Pan Ams,” Jen said. “I couldn’t have done so well without them.”
Jen’s goal is to earn a spot on next year’s U.S. Junior Team again and win a gold medal at the XXIV Junior Pan-American Karate Championships in Columbia. Jen’s ultimate dream is to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. With the upcoming IOC vote to include karate in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Jen might just get the chance to realize his dream. ~.