Alex Tang speaks about taekwondo with confidence.
He wants to win, and he expects to.
And at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships in Berkeley, Calif., that’s exactly what he did.
Tang, a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School, won the 15-19 age group title and was also best in his weight class, under 120 pounds.
He beat out contestants from the California cities of Danville, San Mateo and Clovis earlier this month.
“I think my favorite part came at the end,” Tang said, “when I felt so happy to be a champion.”
It didn’t stop there, either.
Tang intends to continue to pursue taekwondo in college. The coach for Stanford’s taekwondo program took notice of Tang at the tournament, and told him he’d be interested in adding Tang when he came to college.
Tang visited the campus — “it’s huge,” he said — and loved it.
If he makes it to Stanford and competes for one of the nation’s top taekwondo programs, it will make a path he started when he was just 5 all worth it.
As a kid, he tried other things — from sports to musical instruments — but when his father had him try taekwondo, it felt right.
“I started this because my father wanted me to be brave,” he said.
At the beginning, it was just for fun, no sparring. By the time he turned 9 years old, he fell in love.
“When I started on my first competitions, it started the fire inside my heart,” Tang said. “I love this sport, and I’ll keep doing it. The spirit inside taekwondo, it takes a lot of heart.”
That spirit is what helps motivate Tang to practice five times a week. That’s Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school for two hours a day, then Friday and Saturday for 8 total hours. In fact, on the weekend, that includes when Tang has to wake up at 5 a.m. to work out and practice.
Nobody likes waking up that early.
“No,” Tang said, laughing. “But I have to.”
It all became worth it when he stood at nationals.
Both of his parents were there, along with a number of teammates and friends.
It was a great feeling, one that he hopes — no, expects — to feel again.
“I expect to win,” he added, “and you have to train to be a champion.”