By Abby Ramirez
As human beings, teenagers tend to find passion in different things. For some it might be theatre or dance, for others it could be art, and for many, it is sports. Roughly 45 million kids all over the world have some kind of activity or hobby outside of school, according to Active Kids.
However, for extremely dedicated athletes, sports are more than just a pastime. Like the planets around the sun, everything they do revolves around their sport. Junior Andrew Hwang is no exception.
Since he was five years old, Hwang has found a great passion for taekwondo, a modern Korean martial art similar to karate. For the last 11 years, he has dedicated his life to competing. With every passing year, he has continued to face new challenges and set new goals in hopes of becoming one of the best.
In order to achieve these goals, Hwang devotes numerous hours to training in order to improve his athleticism. He practices for four hours a day and drives to Anaheim twice a week to better his skills and prepare himself for tournaments, which occur every two to three months.
So far, Hwang’s hard work has paid off. Throughout his athletic career, he has won multiple different national and international medals, thus earning himself the rank of second in the nation and sixth internationally. In October of this year, Hwang traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the World Taekwondo President’s Cup, where he earned a gold medal.
This, however, is not even Hwang’s greatest accomplishment. Earlier this year, he had the opportunity to go to Wuxi, China as a member of the USA Taekwondo National Team to compete against different teams from all around the world. The team earned a bronze medal, proving that Hwang is, indeed, among some of the best in the world.
“I couldn’t even comprehend the fact that I won my way to the top. It all happened so fast. All my teammates were screaming while I was just standing there dumbfounded. Did I really do it? Did I just accomplish my dream?” Hwang said.
Nevertheless, Hwang, just like the rest of us, is human, and is not immune to imperfection and danger. He, like many other athletes, has injured himself. Just before the 2018 USA Taekwondo National Championships, Hwang pulled both of his hamstring muscles, and was not able to rank high enough to join the national team as a result. He has also struggled to do a back tuck correctly, which is imperative in the extremely acrobatic world of taekwondo.
His motivation to overcome these obstacles, as well as his passion and competitive spirit, has driven him to try to become the best athlete he can be so that he can achieve his most current goal: maintaining a spot on the national team.
“I always remember one thing: someone wants my spot and that someone will keep working towards it. So I must keep working to keep my spot on the national team,” Hwang said.
Like any other serious high school athlete, Hwang intends to extend his taekwondo career into college, and hopes that he can receive a scholarship to pursue his passion. Unfortunately, there is not a professional taekwondo league, but he plans to continue practicing the sport as a hobby after his career has finished.
After devoting almost every day of his life to the martial art for the last 11 years, taekwondo has become more than a hobby to Hwang; it has become his life. Just as people connect theatre, art, or dance to their identity, Hwang has done the same with his deeply rooted passion for taekwondo.
“Taekwondo is almost my own existence. I honestly don’t know where I would be without it,” Hwang said.