Shawn Wong, an eighth grader at Granite Ridge Intermediate, earned a gold medal while representing his country at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships in Rio De Janeiro earlier this school year.
The 13-year-old competed in the -45 kilogram division of Kumite, a form of karate sparring in which he took first place for his age group.
“I just want to be the best,” said Shawn, who began training at the age of five with his father as his greatest advocate.
However, it’s not just his father that encourages him. For the Wong family, karate is a lifestyle. In addition to Shawn being a champion, his mother and sister are black belts.
Shannon Wong, Shawn’s father, is the chief instructor and owner of Bushido Kai Karate-Do Martial Arts on the northeast corner of Willow and Nees in Clovis.
Although Wong has been training in karate since the early 80s, he still feels like a kid.
“Martial arts is lifelong, you’re never too old to start,” said Wong, adding that martial arts is an adaptive sport that molds to the needs and abilities of individuals.
More than that, however, it teaches the self to remain composed even under the most chaotic circumstances.
“It’s a passion of mine, whether I’m doing it in my garage or over here, I’d still be training,” said Wong.
However, Shawn has gone farther than Wong could have ever imagined.
After learning he had qualified for the Junior Pan American Championships, Shawn had only a month and a half to train.
“It was harder than leading up to trials,” said Shawn.
During his training in New York, Shawn worked intensively every single day. Mornings consisted of two to three hour gym sessions, and during the evenings he would train for up to four hours.
Besides the strenuous training, Shawn also had a strict diet of mostly protein and no carbs to keep his weight under 99 pounds.
During the championships, Shawn competed against four countries: Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil.
“In the middle of the matches, I got nervous because I was going against different countries and I had never seen those kids,” said Shawn.
And though Shawn was nervous, none of the competitors stood a chance against the young athlete. In almost a unanimous manner, Shawn only had one point against him while he scored 19 points
“I just told myself to trust my technique,” he said.
Next up, Shawn hopes to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.